Tanzania vulnerable, is rated high in COVID-19 import risk

24Feb 2020
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Tanzania vulnerable, is rated high in COVID-19 import risk

​​​​​​​TANZANIA has been listed along with Sudan, Angola, Ghana and Kenya as having high levels of vulnerability to a coronavirus epidemic in case of importation of the virus from China.

A study led by a French researcher and academician said that these countries have high and comparable importation risks of the coronavirus on account of intensity of trade interactions, varying levels of preparedness to face the threat of an outbreak and high levels of vulnerability.

 A study led by Dr Vittorio Colliza of INSERM research centre in Paris and the Sorbonne University said that Ethiopia and Nigeria showed moderate preparedness and high levels of vulnerability.

One of the study’s major limitations was the researcher’s inability to account for flight bans implemented by airlines, pointing out that flight bans are not expected to prevent COVID-19 importation.

“Prior and current evidence indicates that realistic travel restrictions would have a limited effect in containing the epidemic and would delay by only a few weeks the risk that the outbreak extends to new countries,” the study underlined.

“Travel or trade restrictions are indeed not currently recommended by WHO,” the lead researcher pointed out.

On the basis of trade exchanges, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa were identified as the African countries at highest risk for imported cases of COVID-19 from China.

Still, countries found to be at moderate risk — including Nigeria and Ethiopia — are less prepared and more vulnerable to a potential outbreak, Dr Colliza noted, airing the need for support to handle the likelihood of future imported cases.

“Many countries in Africa are stepping up their preparedness to detect and cope with COVID-19 importations,” she said, elaborating that the study was able to identify risks of importation of the virus and capacities of handling such a situation.

It listed those countries that should be prioritized for resources, intensified surveillance and capacity building, especially those with a moderate risk of importation of COVID-19 and likely to be ill prepared to detect imported cases and contain onward transmission.

Dr Colizza and colleagues used data on the volume of air travel from Chinese provinces with infections to Africa and the proportion of COVID-19 cases in Chinese provinces to estimate the risk of importing COVID-19 in African countries.

Estimates generated excluded air travel from Hubei province due to the travel ban introduced by China on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, the researcher specified.

The Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index was used on the findings to determine each country’s capacity to detect and respond to the virus, where the WHO indicators to measure preparedness.

This ability is measured using the WHO instrument, the international health regulations monitoring framework state parties’ self-assessment annual reporting tool. The other aspect was vulnerability, where the computed results were published in The Lancet.

Egypt, Algeria and South Africa showed the highest risk for COVID-19 importation from China but had low vulnerability levels and moderate to high preparedness levels, the study asserts. Last week, Egypt was the first African country to confirm a case of the disease, observers noted.