As Extra-Ordinary meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers for Health convened to discuss Novel Coronavirus outbreak East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, 23rd March, 2020: The East African Community Secretariat is in the process of deploying mobile laboratories and Coronavirus test kits to all EAC Partner States.
Each Partner State will receive a four wheel drive vehicle fitted with laboratory and ICT equipment, as well as all the necessary consumables for a fully functional laboratory with the capacity to conduct tests for Ebola and the coronavirus in addition to other pathogens.
The EAC Secretariat has also put in place a Regional Coordination Committee (RCC) with Risk Communication and community engagement; Policy and Guidelines; Finance and Logistics; and Data and Statistics Sub-committees to oversee the regional COVID–19 response.
The RCC has already set in motion a number of activities to secure the EAC Organs and Institutions, and support the Partner States in battling the virus.
Regional Health Ministers to discuss COVID-19 Pandemic
The Secretariat will convene an Extra-Ordinary Meeting for the Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health via Video Conference on 24th March, 2020 to deliberate on the COVID-19 Pandemic and augment containment strategies to prevent and stop any further spread of the disease in the region.
The meeting comes in the wake of confirmation of Corona Virus Disease cases in four out of six EAC Partner states. To this effect, some EAC Partner States have implemented strategies to address the outbreak at national level such as the suspension of all face to face meetings, closure of all schools and tertiary training institutions, closure of their respective air space and borders as well as implementation of quarantine (mandatory or otherwise) on arrival for travellers from high risk countries due to the outbreak.
The four EAC Partner States that have reported cases of the coronavirus are Kenya with 15 confirmed cases, Rwanda 17, Tanzania 12 and Uganda one case. The Burundi and South Sudan are yet to report any cases. Two countries neighbouring the EAC, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia have each confirmed one case.
Suspension of all EAC meetings
In a letter to EAC Partner States Permanent/Principal/Under Secretaries dated 16th March, 2020, EAC Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko called for the suspension of all EAC meetings.
“All EAC meetings (statutory and otherwise) for all Organs, Institutions and Project Implementation Units are suspended until further notice. We are also suspending all rental and use of EAC facilities. Organisers of meetings will use Video Conferencing or other available virtual facilities as much as possible,” said Amb. Mfumukeko
The Community has also taken measures to protect its staff from infection by providing key information about the virus, provision of hand sanitisers facilities in the Secretariat, and cancellation of all non-essential international or local travel.
Where travel is unavoidable, EAC staff have been advised to strictly adhere to quarantine measures required by the respective Partner States’ national authorities upon return as guided by the WHO.
Following the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the East African region, the EAC management directed that all staff who travelled to or from the countries with confirmed cases work from home beginning Monday, 16th March, 2020 until further notice.
The public is encouraged to be vigilant, follow the recommended hygiene including washing of hands with soap and water, and sanitizing one’s hands among other things,” added the SG.
The EAC Regional Coordination Committee will also trained airport staff; baggage handlers; immigration and other key staff in the Partner States on COVID -19 prevention and control measures.