In response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners have worked tirelessly to contain the deadly virus.
In response to the ongoing outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (nCOV) in Wuhan Province in China and its subsequent spread around the world, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of The Gambia in collaboration with WHO and partners has so far taken the following measures:
A press release was issued on 27 January 2020 to inform the general public about the epidemic; WHO standard case definition protocols/guidelines were reviewed and adopted, and shared with all health regions; Surveillance is being strengthened at all the strategic Points of Entry including the Gambia International Airport, where routine temperature monitoring and travel History screening is enforced.
The MOH is in collaboration with local and international partners including WHO, ACDC, WAHO and US CDC developed the relevant tools/ protocols for case definition, case detection and management, sample collection and transportation to designated laboratories.
The Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, at a stakeholder meeting organized by his ministry, reactivated a multi-sectoral National Health Emergency Steering Committee on 3rd February 2020. Risk communication and community engagement has been stepped up through local media and a toll-free line (1025) has been set up to provide adequate information to the general public on the current novel coronal virus epidemic.
With commitment from partners, the next steps will be to develop a national response plan, mobilize resources for public health emergencies preparedness in the country. Printing and distribution of electronic protocols and guidelines to all reporting units, stepping up risk communication and social mobilization using national and local community structures are in progress. An Isolation Center has been designated and is ready to receive and manage any suspected cases.
Again, on Tuesday 4th February, the WHO Country Office organized a press briefing to sensitize journalists on the 2019 novel Corona Virus. The Hon Minister of Health was invited, and he graciously availed himself at the press briefing. Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh provided an updated regarding the measures that are being put in place to strengthen preparedness and made clarification to questions posed by the Media representatives.
Speaking at the event the WHO Representative, Dr. Desta Tiruneh, gave a background information about the new corona virus epidemic. He noted that five out of six of the WHO regions have reported cases imported from China except the Africa Region. He dilated on the signs and symptoms and on what WHO is doing in terms of supporting countries. He mentioned WHO has developed protocols and guidelines for investigation, and management of cases and for laboratory diagnosis, use of masks in health care settings, and, risk communication etc.
Dr. Tiruneh reechoed MoH’s preparedness efforts alongside with other partners and encouraged reporters to get their information from reliable sources such as WHO and the MoH. He highlighted that there is a lot of information on this 2019 novel Corona Virus in World Health Organization web site. He went on and advised the media fraternity to seek information from WHO and the MOH and inform the public accordingly to avoid confusion and panic that may result from reporting of unconfirmed information.
Both the Hon. Minister and the WHO Representative acknowledged the crucial role the media has to play and reassured them that their doors are always open and always to get their information from correct source and avoid spreading rumors.