Africa CDC has pointed out major gaps delaying response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the inadequate public health infrastructure and foreign supplies of testing kits and other diagnostics.
John Nkengasong, Director at the Addis Ababa-based Africa CDC, said on Thursday that only 16 out of the 54 African Union member states had functioning public health institutes, while the lack of properly trained and adequately equipped medical workers was particularly acute and had delayed the response.
He said Africa rallied around in a remarkable manner when the pandemic broke out.
The Africa CDC briefed the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa eight times, Nkengasong said during a webinar from Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is currently on a visit to discuss the response to the pandemic.
Nkengasong said the over-dependence on foreign supplies of key material required to respond to pandemics, including diagnostic kits, remain a major weakness to preparedness levels across most countries in Africa.
“We had money to purchase the diagnostics but we could not get these materials because we faced a surge in demand. Every country needed them. It is an area we need to work on. We are still not well prepared to tackle pandemics. We still need to increase disease surveillance and prepare to carry out network testing,” the Africa CDC head said.
The Bureau of Heads of State comprises the current Chairman of the AU, the immediate past Chairman, the incoming Chairman and other top officials in charge of running the continental organisation.
Nkengasong said the meetings led to major decisions with political and economic consequences such as lockdowns on major cities across Africa which showed strong political and economic risk-taking.
“We recognised these measures helped to slowdown the spread of the deadly virus without which the virus would have been at another level,” Nkengasong said.
African countries have recorded 2.1 million cases of the COVID-19 with some 92,000 new cases recorded over the past week, according to the Africa CDC.
At least 22 million tests have been carried out in Africa and an additional 2.7million antigen test kits have been availed in Africa to ease the burden of testing. (PANA/NAN)