JUST IN: SADC to harmonise and coordinate region’s preparedness and response to Covid-19

The Chronicle

Oliver Kazunga, Senior Reporter

HEALTH Ministers from Sadc on Monday agreed to harmonise and coordinate the region’s preparedness and response to Covid-19.

This follows the outbreak of coronavirus which was detected in China towards the end of last year and has spread to over 70 other countries with South Africa confirming three recorded cases in the past week.

Other affected countries include United Kingdom, the United States of America, Italy, Australia, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, and Senegal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday said the global number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has surpassed 100 000.

The meeting, which was held at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania noted that Covid-19 has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on January 30, 2020 with potential significant impacts.

In a statement posted by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on its twitter handle on Tuesday, Government said the Sadc Ministers of Health meeting also received presentation and noted the Covid-19 global situation and measures taken at global level as presented by WHO and the Chinese government.

“The meeting also noted the status on the level of preparedness of the member States in addressing Covid-19 and urged member States to put in place national preparedness and response plans as well as contingency and emergency funds to address gaps in prevention, impact, mitigation and other interventions,” read the statement.

The meeting also urged member States to institute Peer Review Mechanisms to validate self-assessment reports on readiness and requested international co-operating partners through the WHO and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), to support member States in the development and implementation of country plans as well as in resource mobilisation for health-related infrastructure development.

It was also agreed at the meeting that member States would establish coherent mechanisms of sharing information on issues of transboundary public health concern.

“And that the Technical Committee for Coordinating and Monitoring the Implementation of the Sadc Protocol on Health comprising of directors of Public Health and directors of Medical Services be re-established and its terms of reference be expanded,” read the statement.

The meeting directed the revived committee to work in partnership with disaster management and other relevant structures at member State and regional levels, and other sectors in government (Immigration, Tourism, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade), Africa CDC, development partners, private sector, and civil society in line with the expanded Terms of Reference.

Delegates at the forum also recommended a temporary suspension of Sadc regional face-to-face meetings and encouraged utilisation of modern technology such as video-conferences, webinars and Skype calls for holding such meetings until such a time when the situation has been contained.

“The meeting agreed that Sadc member States in collaboration with WHO and Africa CDC will continuously provide training and support to enhance readiness and preparedness of Sadc member States,” the report read.

Member States were urged to encourage preventive measures such as handwashing and sanitisation of surfaces in workplaces and domestic settings.

The meeting advised Sadc member States to utilise the Sadc Pooled Procurement Services through Medical Stores Department (MSC) for the procurement of medicines and supplies.

“The meeting urged Sadc member States to mobilise domestic resources and invest in public health systems to ensure resilience and health security.

“The meeting further urged member States to align country plans to continental strategies and utilise the existing technical structures such as the Africa CDC Regional Coordinating Team (RCT) in Zambia and WHO.”

The Sadc Ministers of Health also commended China, WHO and Africa CDC for the efforts being made towards addressing the Covid-19 and pledged Sadc’s continued solidarity towards China and other countries affected by the virus.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China extended gratitude to Sadc member States and the Sadc secretariat for standing in solidarity with China during this difficult time, and assured delegates at the meeting that all Sadc citizens including students are being taken care of in terms of prevention and monitoring and no one has been infected.

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