By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Five African Countries Confirm Cases
This morning 2nd March 2020, World Health Organisation country representative, Dr Desta Tureneh provided an update on the Corona Virus across the world stating that “inside China, the virus is being contained and the number of cases is reducing. However, outside China, the number of countries with cases are increasing.” This ominous warning preceded the BBC news bulletin this afternoon indicating that the first case of Corona Virus has been confirmed across the border in Senegal.
Speaking to Mr Sanna Sambou, Programme Coordinator for the Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit of the Ministry of Health, he confirmed that his Unit is in touch with their Senegalese counterparts about the situation. Their department will receive a report about the case soon. According to Mr Sambou, the disease was detected on a French National but there is still no need for alarm.
Mr Sambou went further to explain that there could be some difficulty in locating all passengers on board the same flight with the individual who tested positive and the potential for the virus to spread to other people. Earlier this morning Mr Sambou and other officials from the Ministry of Health dismissed rumours of a suspected case of Corona Virus on a Gambian from Italy as false. The list of African Countries which now have confirmed cases of Corona Virus are now five including; Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
According to Mr Sambou Gambia can detect the Corona Virus at the preliminary level and confirmed at Senegal. Senegal will currently have its work cut out with the recent confirmation of their first case of Corona Virus.
Don’t Come Home, Don’t Travel to Confirm Countries
According to the Mr Sambou and other health officials, they are advising all Gambians travelling from countries with the virus to stay where they are and for Gambian business entrepreneurs desperate to travel to China to purchase stock, not to travel to China and destinations with confirmed cases of Corona Virus as it would expose the country to serious risk.
“Even in religion Islam says let nobody go out and nobody go in. I think this is a very good way of controlling transmission and that’s what Chinese are doing right now. Even if [Gambians in China] people are not currently showing signs of the disease, bringing them here means importing the disease” said Mr Sambou.
“At the borders, if you didn’t show any signs you can pass our borders so its not advisable for those people to come. Stay there where they can address this problem. We don’t have the capacity. The good Cameroonian said he’s not coming. That’s where he gets this disease. If he’s to die, he dies there. But he will not bring this disease to a poorly resourced country like Cameroon. They cannot cope it’s a proxy for people to get killed.”
“So anybody who’s forcing his way to get back to us. Well, am sorry you’re not doing justice to this country. You have very bad intentions for this country. Stay in China where they detect you as being sick they can treat you. Its a superpower, we don’t have those things. Why do you want to come home in the first place? Those doing business are they doing it for us or their families? You look at the greater implication. My family benefits in terms of money but the public suffers in terms of health complications which may supersede what you have already gained.”
“Let people forget about their rights. The government also have a right with laws and regulations which can even prevent people from coming when the time arrives, WHO will say close your border, we’ll close” explained Mr Sambou. However, the WHO Country Rep Dr Desta Tureneh stated that “WHO never advises countries to go on lockdown. They do not believe in imposing travel restrictions and believe that’s up to individual countries to decide.”
Ministry of Health Official, Director Modou Njie, pointed out that the media publishing news without contacting them. He highlighted that “we are not enemies with the media and the media is not our enemies. When we don’t have media working with us when such news are spreading there always results in confusion.” According to Mr Njie, if news media outlets want to be seen as credible, they should confirm information with their Ministry on the Virus. The media could even request for support staff to join their radio programs.
Dr Tureneh highlighted the importance of having a proper channel to inform people on the spread of the Corona Virus. In the absence of that rumours will fill the gap and that is not good to address the issue. Both the WHO Rep and Ministry of Health officials confirmed future weekly briefing on the Corona Virus with the media.
55 Listed for Follow Up
According to a presentation by Mr Sambou, since January to date their Ministry has been following up with a total of 55 cases, he says does not fit the “Case Definition” prescribed by WHO. The 14 days incubation period has seen their list of 55 people go through an incubation monitoring period. As of earlier this morning, 16 individuals have all gone through the incubation period leaving “39 still underfollowed up”. Most importantly “three people are tested negative by the MRC laboratories so far”.
One of the main challenges they claim is the lack of reliable and affordable internet required for real-time surveillance. Sanna Sambou, in particular, called on GSM companies to assist them in this regard to ensure that they have reliable internet at affordable prices. Some of their numerous challenges can be found in the slide below, which all comes down to resources and funds.
After some bit of heckling between journalists and health officials, one of them in charge of Finance disclosed that they need some $2.5 Million US Dollars to implement an emergency short term 3 months program to confront the disease. They currently have a total of 6 committees set up to address the situation and currently have a minimum stock of equipment which health officials say is sufficient to last one month. Ministry Officials informed the media that the public can now “call the free toll number 1025. We have posted 9 personnel at the airport. The borders have also been strengthened and our staff have been trained through IOM support. We have received expert support with a consultant to finalize the plan to combat the virus.”
About the Corona Virus
It can take between 2-14 days for the Corona Virus to demonstrate symptoms of the disease which can begin with a common cold and progress to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and in worst case death. Ministry of Health officials are calling on the public to wash their hands regularly, practice good personal hygiene and to close their face when sneezing. Use of hand sanitisers is advised.