The World Health Organisation has issued a fresh warning of a possible spread of the corona virus to Kenya.
WHO noted the confirmation of the virus in Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal should act as a wakeup call, adding that time is critical.
The global health agency described the outbreak in Africa as a ‘once a distant threat to public health in Africa that has become a reality’.
The UN body yesterday said an outbreak in the three countries had forced the Regional Office for Africa to change from a readiness to a response mode.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa convened a two-day meeting in Nairobi on Monday and Tuesday, with key health partners with a key agenda to discuss preparedness of African countries to handle the Corona virus.
The meeting brought together representatives from the Health Ministry, the African Union, United Nations and key partner agencies.
According to WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti the meeting was an opportunity to ensure that efforts are coordinated, not duplicated, and that scarce resources are used in the most effective way possible.
“We are calling on all countries to invest urgently in preparedness for the arrival of cases, and to prioritise the protection of health workers, individuals at risk, and to communicate better the risks of transmission to their people,” Moeti said.
Corona virus spread
The WHO now says at this critical juncture, countries must do all they can to ensure they are ready tackle the Corona virus.
“These cases in Algeria and Nigeria should be a wake-up call for governments across Africa. Governments must do all they can to prepare for an eventual outbreak: time is critical.”
Moeti said readiness by countries should not just be for the first case but their first cluster of cases, the first evidence of community transmission, and even for the possibility of sustained and prolific community transmission.
The global health agency has further called on governments to put in place measures to limit transmission from affected countries, and to ensure that their national health systems have the ability to rapidly prevent, detect, isolate and treat any infection.
“First cases need to be detected and isolated quickly to prevent a large number of infections that could potential overwhelm a country’s health system. Many national health systems are already weak,” the UN statement to the newsrooms yesterday read.
“Governments should strive to ensure that health workers and at-risk individuals are protected. They also need to ensure that members of the public are fully aware of the threat posed by COVID-19.”
Emphasis has however been put on simple basics that the agency says could go a long way in preventing spreading of the virus further.
They include regular hand washing with soap and water; coughing or sneezing into a tissue or a bent elbow, being sure to safely dispose of the tissue afterwards and maintaining a social distance of at least one metre, particularly if that person if coughing or sneezing.
People are also advised against touching their eyes, nose and mouth; and seeking medical attention early in case they develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Kenya has laid down a number of measures as part of the emergency preparedness plan.
For instance, any export of masks by local firms has been banned as part of the preparedness to handle the coronavirus.
In a bid to have enough stock, Kenyan firms have also been banned from exporting masks to countries experiencing shortage.
The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority board chairman Kembi Gitura on Monday expressed confidence in the capacity of local firms to produce enough stock as part of the emergency plan.
“Today alone, we will procure two million masks. We have one local firm that produces 130,000 units in a day,” Gitura said.
According to the national supplier, the types of masks specified are N95 and 3 ply surgical masks.
The disease which broke out in China in December has so far infected more than 90,000 people across 60 countries, killing more than 3,000.
The Mbagathi hospital isolation centre is expected to be completed by Friday as per the President’s Executive Order.
Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya were identified as having a moderate importation risk, but with varying levels of health system preparedness to handle an outbreak.
To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.
However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalised. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.
Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials.