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COVID-19 Africa updates: 633 confirmed cases, three more countries catch the bug, and countries take drastic preventive measures

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Countries with cases Source: Africa CDC

THUR, MARCH 19 2020-theG&BJournal –Total confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa is now 633, according to WHO Africa data.

In the past 24 hours, the Gambia, Mauritius and Zambia have announced first cases, bringing the total number to 33 countries with reported cases. 17 deaths have also been recorded.

The Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune Tuesday in a national address said the coronavirus pandemic is an issue of “national security” and “health safety.”

The head of Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) Dr John Nkengasong warned that there might be more countries at risk of the coronavirus outbreak if early detection is not contained.

‘’Seeing as there are only a few countries in our continent with an advanced health care system,’’ he said.

More countries are announcing new containment measures and military exercises are also being called continent wide.

The Botswana authorities announced several measures Wednesday to address the crisis including the ban on travelers from “high-risk” countries (China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and India).

The authorities asked Botswana citizens and residents returning from these countries to stay in isolation at home for 14 days and Visas already granted to visitors from these countries are cancelled and the issuance of new visas for nationals of these countries suspended with immediate effect.

In Zimbabwe, United States Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe has cancelled all routine nonimmigrant visa appointments with effect from today.

The United Nations in South Sudan has announced new measures in support of Government-led efforts to prevent and prepare for the coronavirus (COVID-19). These are aimed at protecting the people of South Sudan and UN staff.

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Sudan and UN operations are continuing largely as normal across the country, providing protection, humanitarian assistance and supporting development.

However, as a protection measure, the Government recently announced restrictions on travelers entering South Sudan from a list of countries affected by local transmission of COVID-19 along with other public health measures. These steps are similar to those adopted by many other countries around the world.

The UN in South Sudan has also decided to suspend the travel of staff on Rest and Recuperation leave until 15 April when the situation will be reviewed.

Sierra Leone has instituted travel restrictions as additional precautionary and extraordinary measures in preparedness to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement issued on 16 March by the Office of the President prohibits all overseas travel for all government officials and urged the general public to “refrain, as far as possible, from overseas travel until further notice”. The directive further bans all public gatherings of more than 100 people.

An earlier announcement on 13 March issued by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) that took effect on Monday 16 March 2020, discouraged individuals from countries with 200 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 from traveling to Sierra Leone during this critical period. “However, if they have very crucial or essential functions in the country they may visit but will still be quarantined as required”, the advisory stated.

Prior to these new measures, the country has been implementing mandatory quarantine measures for passengers arriving from China.  This has now been expanded to include all travelers coming into Sierra Leone from countries with local transmission of more than 50 COVID-19 cases.

Sierra Leone has not reported any confirmed case of COVID-19 since the onset of the outbreak in China. However, heightened surveillance and other readiness measures have been instituted to prevent importation of cases into the country and to enhance capacity to promptly and effectively respond to any cases that may be confirmed.

Some of the critical steps taken include the:

-Activation of the Emergency Operation Centre to level two

-Establishment of an inter-ministerial committee to guide on policy issues in relation to COVID-19

-Identified Points of Entry with the highest risk with particular focus on the Freetown International Airport, and the major border crossing points with Guinea and Liberia

-In-country diagnostic capacity at three public health laboratory facilities with quality assurance linkages established with South Africa and the United States

-Heightened Risk Communications, trainings and prepositioning of supplies at strategic locations.-With APO Group releases

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