By Ken Awuondo
African Regional Manager, The Global Health Network

In the COVID-19 response phase, the focus turns to reducing community transmission and infection. Most African countries and health authorities have emphasised prevention measures targeting individuals and communities. Nearly all African Countries have suspended all passenger flights and imposed travel bans, and after an initial intensification of screening efforts at points of entry, many have closed their borders.

Some countries have implemented countrywide lockdowns, whilst others have introduced regional lockdowns in local epicenters. About eight countries have implemented a country-wide curfew as part of social and physical distancing measures. It is yet to be seen how adopting a curfew approach will impact the spread of COVID-19 - physical distancing is natural during curfew hours, but social contact may be intensified during off-curfew hours.

A smaller numer of countries in Africa (for example Tanzania and Burundi) have so far imposed lax restrictions on movement. Schools and Universities have been closed but public gatherings in places of worship, bars, weddings, political rallies and cultural meetings have been allowed to continue. At the opposite end of the scale, countries that have implemented the tightest measures (total border closure, restictions on public gatherings, required closure of public transport etc.) include Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Morocco, and Botswana.

Measures that have been demonstrated to have a positivie impact on Public Health outcomes include active case finding, contact tracing, testing, case isolation and good personal hygiene practices. Many countries in Africa have established temporary or permanent facilities for COVID-19 isolation units and for case managements.

NEW: BMJ Global Health: Lockdown measures in response to COVID-19 in nine Sub-Saharan African countries

This study was conducted in nine Sub-Saharan African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Two key points of the articles are:

  1. As of September 2020, there is little evidence of lockdown measures flattening the COVID-19 curve in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. In the 9 Sub-Saharan countries studied, there are signs of COVID-19 lockdown measures harming health by affecting the functioning of the health system and causing social and economic disruption. This raises questions about the appropriateness of lockdown in the Sub-Saharan Africa context.

NEW: Africa CDC launches web-based tool to better manage public health emergency workforce deployments

The Africa CDC and the International Health Regulations (IHR) Strengthening Project of Public Health England (PHE) launched a web-based tool on 1st September called AVoHC Net. This tool’s aim is to facilitate rapid deployment and improved administration of a standby workforce. AVOHC Net facilitates easy and rapid access to members of the African Volunteer Health Corps (AVoHC), while also facilitates:

-          The exchange of relevant information with partners for public health emergency deployments.

-          Training of experts on disaster preparedness, management and response.

-          Access to country-specific health profiles for risk mapping and vulnerability assessment.

This multidisciplinary workforce consists of over 800 experts in epidemiology, laboratory, logistics, communication, social science, environmental health, animal health, and incident management. Africa CDC took over management of AVoHC in 2017 to enhance its ability to provide surge capacity. Since then, Africa CDC has deployed members of the AVoHC team to Democratic Republic of Congo for an Ebola virus outbreak, as well as supporting response to COVID-19 pandemic in some countries.

Isolation and Case Management Facility for COVID-19 in Kilifi County, Kenya

Inside the COVID-19 Facility for isolation and COVID-19 Case Management.

It is not clear whether the COVID-19 infection curve in Africa is yet to reach, or has already passed, it's peak phase but one thing that remains clear; COVID-19 surveillance will continue. African countries have so far been behind other continents in terms of infection trajectories, even though early projection models suggested that Africa would have nearly half a million infections by mid-April, if strategies to slow down COVID-19 were not implemented. So far Africa has been spared from the exponential spread of COVID-19 unlike other global regions.

Key research organisation contacts:

The following is a list of contacts within African organisations, including the WHO Africa, CDC Africa and EDCTP Centres of Excellence who are preparing to deal with this response. You can find more information also via the partner links listed in the right hand navigation. 

Africa-CDC   |   African Society for Laboratory Medicine   |   WANETAM NoE   |   CANTAM NoE   |   EACCR NoE   |   TESA NoE   |   ALERRT   |   PANDORA   |   WHO AFRO

If you have anything to add or suggestions on what would be useful please get in touch: