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Africa urged to prepare for outbreak

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-03-06 09:43
Ethiopian Airlines cabin crew wait to be screened for the novel coronavirus at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday. [SUNDAY ALAMBA/ASSOCIATED PRESS]

Despite the fact that only a dozen cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Africa so far, organizations have been urged to put protocols in place not only to prepare for a possible outbreak but also to combat its impact.

As of Thursday, seven African countries-Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia-have reported confirmed cases.

According to the African Union, or AU, all the confirmed cases in Africa reported recent travel to a country with local transmission or contact with a person who had been to such places.

"No country in Africa has reported sustained human-to-human transmission in the community, like "widespread transmission", the AU said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The AU said all staff members including their dependents should have real-time and evidence-based information to make informed decisions during this fast evolving period of the epidemic.

Didintle Kwape, associate consultant at Mercer, a US human resources consulting firm, said African organizations should not take chances in terms of preparing for coronavirus eventualities.

"As of today, there have been only a few cases of coronavirus reported in Africa. However, we have seen the negative impact on businesses that the coronavirus outbreak has caused in other parts of the world,"Kwape said.

She said having a solid business continuity plan in place that focuses equally on operations and employees will help organizations to navigate effectively during these challenging times.

No exception

Gerishon Ikiara, an international economics lecturer at Kenya's University of Nairobi, said the economic impact of the coronavirus is already being felt across the globe and that Africa is no exception since China is its biggest trade partner.

"The epidemic outbreak is likely to have an effect on the global economy. There is therefore an urgent need for control, medicine and preventive measures that will work properly," Ikiara said.

He appreciated the fact that African governments are coordinating activities and building capacities in terms of testing and creating quarantine facilities.

Ikiara said governments, especially in the East African Community economic bloc, should cooperate with the private sector in combating the impacts of the epidemic.

He noted that the private sector in the region contributes over 70 percent of the gross domestic product and employment, and hence should be involved in ensuring that the situation calms down.

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