Date: Monday, 03 February 2020
(Asmara) The Ministry of Health as guided and in collaboration with WHO has commenced conduct of relevant activities in relation to the preparedness against the novel coronavirus which started in China at the end of Dec 2019. Today, on the 31 January 2020, the MOH has organized a briefing session at the Minister’s Office for health stakeholders including the UN Agencies. The Ministerial briefing highlighted what has been accomplished to-date as part of the preparedness and important additional support to strengthen the current level of preparedness across the country. The Meeting was chaired by the Hon. Minister Amina Nurhussein, Minister of Health, in the presence of the 3 Director Generals and all Directors of programs of the MOH. UN Agencies were represented by the respective heads of agency including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP.
The DG of Public Health Department, Dr. Andat Tesfatsion gave a presentation to the stakeholders drawing on the country’s emergency preparedness experience; and guided by existing WHO guidelines and recommendations has already taken actions to revitalize existing National Preparedness and Response Committee. Several meetings have been conducted with the relevant national stakeholders including the Ministry of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Department of Immigration, Ministry of Transport and communication. Authorities at the Asmara International Airport have also been mobilized to carryout screening of incoming travelers using Thermo-scanner. The Asmara airport authorities have also allocated a special room to conduct interviews and examination of all suspected travelers at the airport. Similarly, all ports of entry including ground crossings, sea port and other airports have already been mobilized and are on high alert.
The MOH has already designated the Villagio Hospital in Asmara as isolation and quarantine facility where suspected cases will be isolated, followed up and treated. Arrangements for safe transportation including dedicated ambulance support is in place to transport suspected cases to the isolation facility
Information dissemination to the public has since commenced and is ongoing through the mass media, mainly TV and Radio, and various community administrative channels. National Television and Radio interviews with the MOH Officials have been carried out on the new disease to promote prevention and avoid unnecessary fears and rumors. The MoH has already produced several health promotion materials as recommended by WHO. Samples of the health promotion materials translated in the local language, including different types of promotional materials, such brochures, posters and booklets was exhibited at the venue of the meeting for stakeholders inspection.
Training for identified health workers across the country has also commenced including laboratory workers and Points of Entry (POE) staff using identified SOPs and WHO guidelines. Efforts to strengthen surveillance, contact tracing, case management, infection prevention and control coordination, laboratory procedures have been prioritized; and available Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) mobilized as contingency.
WHO has regularly updated the MoH on relevant information regarding the 2019-nCoV (Corona Virus 2019) outbreak including information on available laboratory investigation sites such as the Center for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis in the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.
MoH informed stakeholders of a list of critical needs of essential equipment and supplies required to strengthen current preparedness and response capacity, including urgent procurement of Thermal Scanners, Hand held digital thermal scanners and Pulse Oximeters and additional PPEs. Stakeholders present requested the MoH to share identified support requirements to enable comprehensive support provision in the preparedness and response for the ongoing 2019-nCoV outbreak.
The Hon Minister of Health emphasized the need for regular coordination meetings of all stakeholders and partners for effective preparedness and response by Eritrea.