Health Ministers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have urged Member States to mobilise domestic resources and invest in public health systems to ensure resilience and health security.
The Ministers met on Monday to discuss Coronavirus and how the region should respond. To date, seven cases of new Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in South Africa after a group of 10 people travelled to Italy and returned to the country on 1 March.
The meeting held at Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was attended by Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The purpose of the meeting was to share existing knowledge and information on the COVID-19 outbreak, which has had devastating global impacts since its outbreak in December 2019, and agree on how to harmonise and coordinate the preparedness and response to COVID-19 in the SADC region.
The Member States were urged to put in place National Preparedness and Response Plans, as well as contingency and emergency funds to address gaps in prevention, impact mitigation and other interventions.
The Ministers encouraged Member States to promote preventive measures such as handwashing and sanitisation of surfaces in workplaces and domestic settings.
At the meeting, China, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) were commended for the efforts being made towards addressing COVID-19. The Ministers pledged SADC's continued solidarity towards China and other countries affected by the virus.
The meeting also noted that COVID-19 has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO on 30 January 2020, with potential significant impacts.
The Member States agreed to establish coherent mechanisms of sharing information on issues of transboundary public health concern.
They agreed to re-establish and expand the terms of reference of the Technical Committee for Coordinating and Monitoring the Implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health. The team comprises Directors of Public Health and Directors of Medical Services.
The meeting also received a presentation by WHO and the Chinese government on measures being taken at global level.
The meeting recommended a temporary suspension of SADC regional face-to-face meetings and encouraged the use of video conferences, webinars and Skype calls for holding such meetings, until such a time when the situation has been contained.