Africa prepares for second wave of pandemic Image: The Conversation
This week, health authorities in both South Africa and Egypt, which combined account for over half of all COVID-19 cases recorded on the African continent, have warned of imminent second-wave outbreaks.
Meanwhile, national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have again cited a general lack of public compliance with safety protocols, including social distancing and mask wearing, as the root cause of resurgence outbreaks.
In order to address this issue, organisations across Africa launched an 'AfricaMaskWeek' on 23 November to raise awareness of the transmission risk and promote the wearing of face coverings in all public spaces.
Authorities in Western Cape Province have issued a 'resurgence warning' this week as the number of locally reported cases of COVID-19 has increased significantly beyond the national average, amounting to a 52 percent jump in new infections over the last seven days. The regional government is subsequently considered introducing a range of new restrictions, which may include additional law enforcement raids and alcohol store inspections to enforce the existing rules, as well as limitations on movement between key hotspot areas. The development comes as national health officials have also warned that certain practices by government departments are proving to be "self-defeating" in the Eastern Cape. In particular, regular long queues outside regional offices of the Department of Home Affairs, where furloughed workers can claim emergency financial support, are thought to have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 due to a lack of social distancing.
Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb has announced this week that the government plans to launch a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign "in a few weeks". The initiative will first prioritise frontline workers, the elderly and people with 'chronic conditions', with the ultimate aim of eventually vaccinating 80 percent of the population.
The Health Ministry has announced that it expects the current wave of COVID-19 infections to reach its peak by "the end of December 2020". Meanwhile, Minister Faoyzi Mehdi also noted that the government plans to launch a vaccination campaign in the new year, with an initial aim to inoculate 20 percent of the population in the second quarter of 2021.
The Minister of Health and Population, Hala Zayed, has confirmed this week that the country is experiencing the start of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. It comes as Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered ongoing assessments of the readiness of hospitals across the country to receive additional COVID-19 patients, as well as the availability of the drugs and equipment (including respirators) needed to treat them.
Local media organisations have reported significant delays at the Busia border crossing which connects the country to neighbouring Uganda and provides a direct overland route between Kampala and Nairobi, and by extension Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the reports, queues of cargo transporting lorries and trucks have reached 60 kilometres (37 miles) long in some instances, as COVID-19-related entry procedures have slowed down the approval process. Under the current rules, all drivers are required to produce a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test certificate which has been issued in the previous 14 days. If they are unable to do so they are required to submit to testing at the border station, before waiting two days for their result. This issue has also raised doubts over the planned launch of the AfCFTA pan-African free trade zone in January 2021 which involves 50 countries, including Kenya and Uganda, and will likely serve to further increase demand for cargo transport.
Authorities have launched a new 'Village Health Team (VHT) strategy' to address concerns that the majority of the population is failing to adhere to COVID-19-related protocols set out by the government. The new strategy involves tasking key community members who have basic knowledge about healthcare with conducting door-to-door visits to check on the health of local households. If potential COVID-19 cases are detected, they will be sent to the nearest health centre for further examination. The VHT members will also ensure that healthy members of the public are following social distancing guidelines.
The government has announced that it has approved an upfront payment of $1.74 million, in conjunction with the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX scheme, to secure access to candidate COVID-19 vaccines for 20 percent of its population in 2021.
The Coordinator of Nigeria's Presidential Task Force (PTF), which is in charge of orchestrating the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced his week that the government will now bar passengers from entering and/or leaving the country for a period of six months if they fail to follow COVID-19 related protocols.
The move is primarily aimed at Nigerian nationals and follows an earlier warning that only one in three travellers who have entered the country via international flights in recent weeks have taken a mandatory PCR test. According to the PTF, the requirement for arrivals to submit to a second test following a period of quarantine is not being widely observed and this is putting local communities at risk by potentially reintroducing cases of the virus from abroad.
In response, the authorities will begin suspending the passports of Nigerian citizens who are caught disobeying the rules. Meanwhile, foreign nationals will also see the immediate cancellation of their visas and may face deportation.
Currently, all passengers arriving in Nigeria are required to provide a negative PCR test result certificate, which must be obtained within two weeks of their planned departure date. International arrivals are also required to complete an online health questionnaire, which will be handed in at the point of entry. In addition, an online portal has been set up which allows travellers to pay for a second COVID-19 test, which is to be performed on the eighth day following their arrival in Nigeria. Passengers must produce evidence that this has been paid for upon arrival. All arrivals are required to self-isolate for seven days until the second test is complete.
This week, the Government of Liberia has announced that it has amended its COVID-19 testing protocols for travellers intending to depart or arrive in the country, in order to prevent further transmission of the virus from abroad. From 1 December, all new arrivals will be required to submit to a PCR test and pay a one-time fee of $ 75, as well as wear a face covering at all times and download and fill in a 'Health Screening Arrival Form' from the Liberia Travel Application App.
Provisions have also been made for exempt travellers to be able to present a negative PCR test certificate which has been issued within 96 hours of their arrival, in order to avoid taking the mandatory test. All arrivals, regardless of whether they test negative at the airport or provide a certificate, must observe a 14-day self-quarantine period and report any potential symptoms via the Liberia Travel App, beginning the day after their arrival in the country.
More details and advice to airlines and business aviation operators can be found on the www.ospreyflightsolutions.com website.
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