African States Lacking Epidemics Experience Most At Risk From COVID-19 - Health Chief

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 10th April, 2020) African countries that lack the experience of combating major outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola, and therefore do not have the required emergency health care response systems in place, will suffer the most during the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic, Catherine Kyobutungi, the executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), told Sputnik.

"Countries whose systems have not been previously tested by other outbreaks like Ebola and hence did not have established systems and protocols to re-activate and experienced teams in the countries to rely on ... Within this group of inexperienced countries, the poorer ones will be particularly vulnerable," the APHRC chief said.

She stated that unsophisticated methods to prevent the further spread of the disease, such as contact tracing, will not disproportionately affect poorer countries. Instead, the lack of experience of dealing with rapid outbreaks of infectious diseases will be the defining factor.

At this stage of the outbreak, with over 10,000 cases of the disease confirmed on the continent, and this number steadily rising, Africa requires greater resources to identify and prevent the spread of the disease, Kyobutungi stated.

"Resources for mass testing this will be the next critical tool in the health sector response. Beyond that, there will be the need for interventions to support local industries to put out products that are critical for the response such as PPE [personal protective equipment], respirators, hospital beds," the APHRC chief stated.

African countries will also require economic support to negate the financial impact of lockdowns and other social distancing measures designed to slow the spread of the outbreak, she said.

"There will also be a need for investments in rebooting the economy in the medium term ... Given the potential impact on the economy and other aspects of prolonged lockdowns, countries will need tools that support rigorous case finding and contact tracing during any periods when such measures are relaxed. That's where rapid and more accessible testing comes in," Kyobutungi remarked.

On April 3, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged the bloc's member states to provide assistance to Africa amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, in order to prevent further transmission within Europe.

The EU launched its "Team Europe" program on Wednesday, a fund worth 20 billion Euros ($21.9 billion) to help the most vulnerable countries tackle the coronavirus disease pandemic.