Ethiopia says it’s ready to host the African Union summit in February, despite the fast-spreading coronavirus. The Addis Ababa city administration, in collaboration with the ministry of health, has intensified its medical surveillance at the airport.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the virus a global health emergency. Over  200 people have so far succumbed to the virus.

China remains the most affected with over 9500 reported cases.

More screening points at the Addis Ababa International airport placed strategically to capture all passengers as they pass. The coronavirus screening is being done concurrently with the Ebola Virus screening that has been in existence since last year.

Director For Travel and Border Health  Ethiopia Public Health institute Dr. Yohannes Dugassa says passengers will be required to pass through three thermo scanners.

“Most of the passengers pass through three thermo scanners so if we miss, by one of it, another or two will capture details. So we are very confident that a passenger will be captured at least on one of the scanners. And if there is a suspicion that a person has the virus there is duty physician composed of well trained medical doctors and nurses working 24-hours. They will evaluate the suspect further, if they fulfill the case definition they will isolate the temporary isolation unit at the airport.”

Passengers are expected to fill in health checklist forms. More attention is given to those coming from countries identified to have cases of coronavirus. At least 21 countries have reported coronavirus cases.

Addis Ababa Health Department Misgana Biru says, “Anyone who comes to Addis Ababa has screening forms and during their stay in Addis Ababa they have daily follow-up from the health workers so they can be assured that if something happens they can be isolated very early.”

At least 30,000 passengers pass through the Bole international airport daily. And with the upcoming African Union Summit in February expected to attract more people, the city administration says it is well prepared.

Head of Addis Ababa Public health Bureau Dr. Yohannis Chala says five isolation centres have been prepared in case of intensive care.

“We have already prepared five isolation centres for primary care in case they need intensive care unit (ICU). We have already prepared at the St. Peters Hospital and Alert Hospital if they really need a close follow-up or intensive care unit for follow up we have prepared and we are to host this African Union Summit in our city.”

Tests of four coronavirus suspects in Ethiopia have been proven negative after tests were done in South Africa. A passenger who came from Beijing remains in isolation.

Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopia’s National carrier, says it will not suspend flights to China. It says China is one of its oldest and strongest destinations.

But neighbouring Kenya and Rwanda have decided to temporarily suspend their flights to China. Concern has been raised about weaker screening in many countries, But The Africa Centres For Disease Control says it is pushing for more coordinated continental efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

Director, Africa CDC Dr. John Nkengasong says they already have people trained for a day like this.

“We have mobilised our rapid responders. These people that were trained earlier on, in anticipation for a day like this. So next week, they will all gather in Addis Ababa, harmonize their training and be on the alert. We will distribute them regionally, such that if there is an outbreak in any member state, we quickly support member states, from the region, from our regional collaborating centres with these individuals that have already been trained and in a coordinated and standardised fashion.”

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