By Ruth Abraham
Eritrea’s Effort to Prevent COVID-19 Outbreak
Following its detection at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei province of China, the communicable disease, COVID-19 or SARS COV-2, has been spreading at a rapid pace.
According to the latest information, it is now spreading the fastest across Europe — Italy, France, Spain and Germany. So far, worldwide around 400,450 people have been infected and almost 17,451 have lost their lives. (The death toll and number of infected cases was taken before the newspaper was sent for publication).
It is a global issue that requires a global attention and assistance. The World Health Organization is working with all countries on raising awareness and promoting prevention mechanisms. The spread of COVID-19 has caused a lot of chaos and instability all over the world.
For a long time, communicable diseases of different types, including the corona family, have posed a threat to humanity, and humans have been developing prevention and treatment mechanisms to fight the diseases. People never wait on diseases, including during the times before modern health care systems were introduced.
For example, as summarized in the book on the history of modern treatment in Eritrea written by Dr. Tekeste Fqadu, the ancient Eritrean society, formerly known as the people of Mdri Bahri, had traditional medicine as well as strict laws and regulations regarding communicable diseases and people with communicable diseases.
According to the laws of Logo Chwa, Adkeme Mlgae and Adgna Tegelba and others; people with communicable diseases were isolated according to the symptoms they showed. If infections continued and seemed to be out of control, strict measures would be taken including people’s temporary departure from their villages until after the outbreak is under control, introducing vaccines made of the serum of the infected person, herbs and food such as honey, and divine methods such as holy waters and prayers. Moreover, anyone who was in contact with the people in isolation had to be isolated and made to pay an indemnity of some sort to the village and would be isolated with the other infected people.
Though information related to COVID-19 one needs to know is available all over the media, wise use of the information is advisable. The Eritrean Ministry of Health (MoH) had issued several public announcements regarding the prevention and ways of combating the virus.
As announced through local media guidelines, an Eritrean national resident in Norway who flew to Asmara last Saturday, March 21st, was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The patient is receiving all necessary treatment while passengers who travelled on the same Airline were subsequently quarantined.
Dr. Araya Berhane, Director of Communicable Disease Control Division (CDCD) of Eritrea, said that the MoH is strengthening its capacity to prevent and control the outbreak by addressing all the thematic areas.
The committees in charge of disease control have been revitalized at all sectors including the national technical level and other committees are being mobilized in all regions, sub regions and village structures.
The only legally recognized point of entry to Eritrea is Asmara International Airport and has been equipped with the surveillance tools such as thermo scanners and screening adopted from WHO surveillance. Travelers from the most affected areas such as Europe and Asia are being quarantined.
Awareness raising information is being disseminated to the people in all regions by experts and through media outlets in all nine Eritrean languages and English, and training has been given to health workers and airport staff on the basic case definition of corona virus, prevention and contact tracing. In addition, a rapid responders’ team has been set up.
As for possible COVID-19 positive patients, a hospital has been designated, fully equipped with medical doctors, intensive care nurses, anesthetists and other related staff and all the necessary medical equipment and infection prevention materials. In addition, the national health laboratory is readily equipped with real time PCR, SARS COV-2 diagnostic reagents and trained laboratory technicians on the diagnosis of SARS COV-2.
Eritrea is doing its best to combat the spread of the virus and the government advises Eritreans abroad to stay where they are as much as possible, Mr. Saleh Mohammed, director at the National Health Laboratory, said. The Eritrean MoH has issued three announcements so far and according to the latest that was issued on March 23rd 2020, all public gatherings including sport, cultural and social events such as baptisms, weddings, church attendance, burials and other events that may bring more than ten people in contact are to be prohibited. In addition, the Eritrean government has mobilized its military to the borders to control illegal border crossing from neighboring countries.
Due to the pandemic, people are becoming prone to stress and anxiety, which is exacerbated by the information overload disseminated by the mass media and social media with a focus on the negative. But if people take proper hygienic care, keep their distance and have a balanced diet to keep their immune system intact as well as follow all official recommendations and rules regarding the pandemic, they will make it through. Many people have recovered and now that the Chinese government has reported that in the past few days, no new local infections have been detected, it is evident that it is not impossible to stop further spread of the virus. It is good to know what is going on but try to depend on a reliable source for accurate and timely information.