Claim: WHO lists Ghana, Nigeria and 11 others as top risk African countries for coronavirus
Source: www.pulse.com.gh, www.punchng.com, www.ghanaweb.com
Researched by Rabiu Alhassan
The World Health Organization (WHO) has denied labelling Ghana and 12 other African countries as “high-risk” for the deadly coronavirus.
This follows some media characterization of a press statement from the international health organization that 13 African countries had been identified as most vulnerable in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
However, the January 31 WHO press statement only identified 13 African countries including Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia as “top priority countries” because they either had direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
“Every country globally is at risk. We have prioritized these  countries not because they are top risk,” a WHO Communications and Marketing Officer Collins Boakye-Agyemang stated in a telephone interview with GhanaFact from his base in the Republic of the Congo.
No recorded case in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) is scaling up coronavirus preparedness efforts in Africa and supporting countries to implement recommendations outlined by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, which met in Geneva, Switzerland on January 30.
While WHO is supporting countries to investigate a number of alerts, there continue to be no reported cases of the novel coronavirus in Africa.
However, there are many links between China and the African continent.
Therefore an assessment of all African countries was conducted together with the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, “to find out which African countries had high volume of travel with China…So, we prioritize the support that we give to these countries,” Collins Boakye-Agyemang said.
WHO guidance notes
“It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said after sending out guidance notes to all countries on how to prepare for a possible novel coronavirus outbreak.
According to the specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with international public health, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV infection, and share full data with WHO.
“The quicker countries can detect cases, the faster they will be able to contain an outbreak and ensure the novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems,” Dr Moeti stated.
Rapid confirmation or ruling out novel coronavirus cases, establishing a platform for isolating suspected or confirmed cases, getting good information out to the public and pre-positioning supplies are all important actions for countries to undertake.
Increasing Africa’s diagnostic capacity
There are currently only two referral laboratories in Africa which have the reagents needed to conduct test samples.
According to WHO, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other African countries to increase diagnostic capacity.
Meanwhile, China has raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811, passing the number killed by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003.