The global community is racing to slow down and eventually halt the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives and sickened tens of thousands of others. In Africa, the virus has spread to dozens of countries within weeks. Governments and health authorities across the continent are striving to limit widespread infections.
Since the start of the outbreak the World Health Organization (WHO) has been supporting African governments with early detection by providing thousands of COVID-19 testing kits to countries, training dozens of health workers and strengthening surveillance in communities. Forty-seven countries in the WHO African region can now test for COVID-19. At the start of the outbreak only two could do so.
WHO has issued guidance to countries, which is regularly updated to take into account the evolving situation. The guidelines include measures such as quarantine, repatriations of citizens and preparedness at workplaces. The Organization is also working with a network of experts to coordinate regional surveillance efforts, epidemiology, modelling, diagnostics, clinical care and treatment, and other ways to identify, manage the disease and limit widespread transmission.
WHO is providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Preparedness and response to previous epidemics is providing a firm foundation for many African countries to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
Importantly, basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken. The Organization is also helping to counter disinformation and is guiding countries on setting up call centres to ensure the public is informed.