‘Unity needed to overcome COVID-19’

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Windhoek - Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, has rallied the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to collaborate fully to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Most countries in the region have relaxed health-related restrictions as infections declined after the winter surge, but experts have warned of a second wave as soon as December 2020.

Speaking to The Southern Times this week, Dr Shangula warned that despite the numbers of infections and deaths decreasing in past weeks, the region could not afford to rest on its laurels.

There are 10 co-ordinated actions adopted by the 16 SADC member states in response to COVID-19; with the first being disaster risk management, whereby countries agreed to establish a National Emergency Operations Centres to take advantage of facilitate economies of scale in logistics and stockpiling of essentials. 

States also agreed to establish National Emergency Trust Funds and National Resource Mobilisation Strategies to facilitate mobilisation of resources for national disaster responses.

Dr Shangula said, “The collaboration among SADC member states goes a long way. There is collaboration in many fields like malaria control, for example. The collaboration in the era of COVID-19 is mostly in information sharing; cross-border movements of goods and services; harmonisation of requirements for travellers; and procurement of commodities for COVID-19, testing, and many others.

“The number of new cases has been decreasing, which is welcome. However, COVID-19 is not going anywhere soon. We should never relax our guard. Let us have faith in our systems, processes and institutions. Together we can control COVID-19.”

Another key action agreed by SADC is re-establishment and expansion of the technical committee for co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the bloc’s Protocol on Health. The region is also implementing the SADC Pooled Procurement Services for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

Barbara Lopi, head of communications and PR at the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana, said member states had put commendable effort into controlling the new coronavirus, in a region that is the worst affect in Africa.

“We call upon everyone to play their part and to adhere to all measures being put in place by their governments. The SADC Secretariat remains committed to the co-ordination of regional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and appeals for continued regional co-operation and solidarity in the efforts to contain and address the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

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