May 23, 2020

Eritrea becomes the first East African country to tackle covid-19

venturesafrica.com | On Friday , May 15, Eritrea ministry of Health declared the country coronavirus (COVID-19) free, after bringing the infected number of patients to zero. For now, Eritrea  became the first East African country to tackle COVID-19 after all 39 patients recovered from the deadly virus. This makes Eritrea among few African countries that have not recorded Covid-19 deaths. Also, Eritrea has now become the third African country after Mauritania and Mauritius to record a 100 per cent patient recovery from the virus. In a statement made by the ministry of health, the last patient “has recovered fully after standard tests at the National Laboratory and was discharged from hospital.” “This result means that all 39 confirmed cases in the country to-date have recovered fully,” the statement read. Despite the current success, the health ministry warned against complacency in the country. It urged citizens to continue adhering to the guidelines set by the government in curbing the spread of the virus, until the government is fully  certain about its COVID-19 status.

On March 21, Eritrea recorded its first COVID-19 case. Since then, the country has enforced rigorous measures in containing the virus. Eritrea’s High Level Task Force for Covid-19 said the government’s strategy of combating the pandemic had been clear and unequivocal from the onset. According to the Task Force, it focused on the strategy of “blocking the transmission chain of Covid-19″ rather than on mitigation measures of provision of medical treatment to infected patients.

Prior to and after the onset of the disease, the government implemented a raft of preventive measures with increasing intensity in response to the situation on the ground” including the “stay at home” policy that is still in force. The achievements it said was due to the country’s containment strategy which incorporates both quarantining thousands of people who returned home during the past two months, active tracing of people who had immediate contact with those diagnosed positive for Covid-19 and compliance by the people to the stay at home strategy.

Based on the task force report, “3,486 persons have been quarantined to-date in 70 centers established throughout the country. Subsequently, over 2,400 people were released after due processes while over 1,000 individuals still remain in quarantine in 33 centers,” added the report. However, in order for Eritrea to maintain its COVID-19 free status, the Eritrean government has decided for the launch of a “random and extensive testing to gauge the spread of Covid-19 in the country in a comprehensive and more reliable manner”.

The first phase of tests was carried out in several sections of the capital, Asmara on May 18. Towns and villages in border areas, as well as front-line employees in the Ministry of Health and other relevant institutions will also be part of this first phase testing. For Eritrea, mass testing is said to be essential, in order to ascertain the country’s status as well as detailed data.

Nevertheless, Eritrea’s latest achievement can’t guarantee that the country can be officially declared as fully COVID-19 free. This is due to the virulent nature of the virus on how easily it could potentially spread from highly affected neighbours and also unknown on the status of the suspects currently under quarantine. African countries still battling with the virus can take a cue from Eritrea, by focusing on blocking the transmission chain of the virus rather than on mitigation measures of provision of medical treatment to infected patients. This can be possible through a total lockdown of the country, massive testing and thorough contact tracing.

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