ADDIS ABEBA – President Sahlework Zewde has implored the public to heed public health officials’ advice to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Ethiopia has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.
Authorities fear the number could increase – prompting the government to take several measures to control the spread of the virus.
The measures that have been announced by the government include ordering most of its employees to work from home from Wednesday, closing all schools and banning large gatherings.
President Sahlework feels, after witnessing how people in the streets of Addis Ababa conducting themselves, many are not ready.
“I looked around Addis Ababa today and see many are not heeding the advice” given by the public health officials, she said.
She noted not many coronavirus tests have been carried out, and people should, therefore, stay vigilant.
Sahlework also said the public should learn from what this virus is doing in developed countries – echoing what the UN health organization head said last week.
– Africa Must Wake up –
Africa must “wake up” to the coronavirus threat and should learn from how the spread of the virus has speed up elsewhere, Tedros Adhanom said.
He warned that there was no reason for complacency. “Africa should wake up, my continent should wake up,” said the Ethiopian, the WHO’s first African head.
Health experts warn that strained public health systems in Africa could become quickly overwhelmed if the virus takes hold, especially in overcrowded urban areas.
“WHO’s recommendation is actually mass gatherings should be avoided and we should do all we can to cut it from the bud, expecting that the worst could happen,” Tedros said.
Ethiopia is continually taking more measures with its president granting pardon to 4011 prisoners and closing universities this week alone to prevent the spread of the virus.
But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics, according to WHO.
– WHO’s New Advice –
“The point of these actions is to enable the more precise and targeted measures that are needed to stop transmission and save lives,” Dr. Tedros said on Wednesday.
He called on all countries who have introduced so-called “lockdown” measures to use this time to attack the virus.
“You have created a second window of opportunity. The question is, how will you use it?,” he asked.
According to Dr. Tedros, there are six key actions that WHO recommend to these nations.
First, expand, train and deploy your health care and public health workforce;
Second, implement a system to find every suspected case at a community level;
Third, ramp up the production, capacity and availability of testing;
Fourth, identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients;
Fifth, develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts;
And sixth, refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling COVID-19.
“These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn’t resurge,” Tedros added.