Vital for African countries not to miss first COVID-19 cases – WHO

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The first goal for African countries in the fight against COVID-19 is to not miss the first cases when detecting, an official with the World Health Organization’s Africa office has said.

Countries must manage to detect the first cases before they spread further, because if missed, it will become a lot more challenging to contain the novel coronavirus, Mary Stephen, technical officer in health emergency preparedness from the WHO Regional Office for Africa, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Stephen said 27 countries in Africa can now detect and confirm the virus and that many African countries have activated public health emergency centers and coordination mechanisms, and developing preparedness and response plans at the national level.

She noted that almost all of the cases found so far in Africa are imported ones, mainly due to the frequent movement of people between the affected areas and Africa. “WHO has raised regional and global transmission risks levels from high to very high, and we have more affected countries where people are traveling to and from Africa,” Stephen said.

“That is why in Africa we are enhancing our capacity to detect the first cases.” She said the initial measures taken by the Chinese government have worked, because none of the imported cases in Africa were from China. Some other countries have begun to take similar measures, which should be encouraged, Stephen said.

“For a global epidemic like this, we call for global solidarity,” she said, adding that China, which has managed to have the cases of the outbreak significantly reduced, can support other countries in Africa to learn from its experience.

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