SADC countries must step up fight against corona virus

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SADC countries must step up fight against corona virus

The decision by SADC member states to suspend all face-to-face events and activities across the region in the wake of the corona virus outbreak is a step in the right direction and must be abided with by all member states if the region is to curb the spread of the virus across the borders.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week declaring the outbreak of Covid-19 a pandemic, nothing must surely be left to chance.  A pandemic is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide.

The corona virus outbreak has spread to at least 114 countries and more than 126,000 have been infected globally, according to the WHO. Of those, over 68,000 have recovered, according to John Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.

With the world being a global village, thanks to the interconnectedness and ease of travel by planes or ships, surely no region can be said to be safe from this pandemic.  That is why we commend SADC health ministers for coming up with measures to suspend face-to-face and direct meetings until the situation has normalised.

 Already, South Africa, the region’s economic powerhouse, has confirmed cases and we urge SADC member states to employ stricter monitoring and controls at their ports of entry, especially on people travelling from the affected countries. To date, 13 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in South Africa after a group of 10 people travelled to Italy and returned to the country on 1 March.

While the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus is likely to affect the SADC economies, most of which rely on tourism and had stronger economic ties with China, where the virus originated, the health of citizens is of paramount importance and governments therefore need to be on their toes to ensure their people are safe from the virus.

As we report elsewhere in this issue, SADC Ministers of Health met in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, this week to discuss the corona virus and how the region should respond. The meeting recommended a temporary suspension of SADC regional face-to-face meetings and encouraged the use of video conferences, webinars and Skype calls for holding such meetings until the situation has been contained.

The member states were urged 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.

The ministers encouraged member states to promote preventive measures such as handwashing and sanitisation of surfaces in workplaces and domestic settings.

Already those countries across the world that are most affected have had to implement stringent border controls, tighter screening of people and stricter preventative measures.  For example, Italy, the most affected country in Europe, was on a total shutdown this week, with workers and school children staying at home due to the virus.  The United States of America was said to be considering suspending flights to Europe.

Sporting activities have also been affected, with most European nations having cancelled, suspended some matches or has ordered teams to play in empty stadiums.  With the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers set to resume in two weeks across the continent and the African Nations Championship finals set for Cameroon in a few weeks, it would be advisable for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to emulate the example set in Europe and suspend matches until the outbreak is under control.

Surely, it will not make any sense that while governments across the region and the continent are working round the clock to deal with the outbreak, CAF continues to bury its head in the sand. Sport cannot be bigger than the health of citizens.

We therefore urge SADC nations in particular, and all African nations in general, to continue fighting the pandemic.  Given that most countries on the continent do not have adequate health facilities, the last thing Africa wants at this time is another pandemic.  The continent has had the misfortune of carrying the brunt of HIV/Aids, ebola, malaria, and tuberculosis and an outbreak of corona virus will be too much for Africa.    

 

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