Covid-19: Eritrea flattens curve in less than two months

Monday May 18 2020
PIX 3

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki. PHOTO | FILE

By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE

Eritrea on Friday claimed that it had brought the number of coronavirus infections down to zero, becoming the first East African country to win the battle against the deadly disease, at least for now.  

The Horn of Africa nation became a corona virus-free after all the 39 patients recovered from the highly infectious disease, according to a statement issued by the country’s Ministry of Health.

A last remaining patient "has recovered fully after standard tests at the National Laboratory and was discharged from hospital" the ministry said.

 "This result means that all 39 confirmed cases in the country to-date have recovered fully," the statement read.

COVID-19 DEATHS

This makes Eritrea among few African countries that have not recorded Covid-19 deaths.

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 Further, Eritrea has now become the third African country after Mauritania and Mauritius to record a 100 per cent patient recovery from the deadly disease.

 Despite the current success, the health ministry, however, stressed that this important milestone should not induce complacency at this point in time.

 "Indeed, it is vital that every citizen continue to fully adhere to, and diligently implement, the government of Eritrea guidelines in force until the ongoing task of detailed and comprehensive assessment to gauge the spread of the pandemic in the entire country with full certainty is accomplished" it said.

 Since Asmara reported its first Covid-19 case on March 21, the country has since enforced a series of rigorous containment measures, including nationwide lockdown to stem the spread.

 Unlike all its neighbours, the country has not reported a single case of the virus since April 18 when four people, who had been quarantined, contracted the virus.

 The current Covid-19 tally in Eritrea stands at 39 cases, the lowest in a region.

 COVID-19 TASK FORCE

 In a statement, Eritrea’s High Level Task Force for Covid-19 said the government’s strategy of combating the pandemic had been clear and unequivocal from the onset.

 “The essence of this policy consists of taking, first and foremost, all requisite measures to prevent an outbreak of the disease and to curtail its transmission through robust Non-Pharmaceutical Measures in the event of its occurrence in the country” it said in a statement seen by the Nation.

The Task Force said that the strategy of suppression is predicated on the overarching concept of ”blocking the transmission chain of Covid-19” rather than merely focusing on mitigation measures of provision of medical treatment to infected patients.

“In this respect, the Eritrean government has implemented, prior to and after the onset of the disease, a raft of preventive measures with increasing intensity in response to the situation on the ground” including the “stay at home” policy that is still in force.

“The conscientious role of the Eritrean people has been and remains a critical element in the success of this Endeavour,” it said.

 The achievements it said was due to country’s containment strategy which incorporates both quarantining thousands of people who returned home during the past two months and active tracing of people who had immediate contacts with those diagnosed positive for Covid-19.

QUARANTINE

“One of the central features of the strategy of prevention consists of putting in quarantine all persons who entered the country through air, sea and land routes. This was implemented from the outset”

 “In this respect, 3,486 persons have been quarantined to-date in 70 centers established throughout the country”  the statement said.

“Over 2,400 were released subsequently after due processes while over 1,000 individuals still remain in quarantine in 33 centers,” added the statement.

 Eritrea has partially relaxed its strict lockdown orders after country slowed the spread.

Recently, President Isaias Afeworki broke globally accepted social distancing rules when he travelled to neighbouring Ethiopia to personally meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.

Eritrea’s latest achievement can’t guarantee for Eritrea to officially declare country is fully free from the highly contagious and unpredictable nature of the virus.

Considering the virulent nature of the virus on how easily it could potentially spread from highly affected neighbours and also unknown on the status of the suspects currently under quarantine, it will be too early for Eritreans to celebrate the current success story.

 “Inspiring as it is, this milestone is not a cause for complacency. Indeed, there are critical questions that must be addressed. We cannot  state, at this stage, that the spread of Covid-19 has been curtailed fully in view of the nature and gravity of the disease, the prevailing global and regional realties and trends, as well as the substantial proportion of asymptomatic cases that may exist at any point in time” the task force underscored.

 MASS TESTING

 To maintain the flattened curve, the Eritrean government has decided for the launch of a “random and extensive testing to gauge the spread of Covid-19 in the country in a comprehensive and more reliable manner”.

The mass testing, Eritrea said is essential for the full appraisal that will be inferred from detailed and extensive data.

Accordingly, the first phase of tests will be carried out in several sections of the capital, Asmara from May 18.

Towns and villages in border areas, as well as front-line employees in the Ministry of Health and other relevant institutions will also be part and parcel of this first phase testing, it said.

It added that the modalities for subsequent phases of testing will be determined by the outcome of the first phase as well as relevant global and regional realities and trends