EAC Leaders to Meet Today via Video Conferencing Over Covid-19 as Global Cases Surpass 2 Million

EAC Heads of State posing for a photo at a previous Summit.

As countries across the world continue to devise means of combating the spread of Covid-19, Heads of State of East African Community Partner states will Wednesday hold an Extraordinary Summit on the region’s preparedness and response to the pandemic.

Rwanda which currently has the mandate to schedule EAC meetings wrote to Liberat Mfumukeko the Community’s Secretary General, through its Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta, informing him that the meeting which is to be held via video conferencing is to held at 11:00am (Kigali time).

“I would like to inform you that after consultation with Partner States, the Extraordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State on COVID-19 is scheduled to take place on 15th April, 2020 at 11:00 (Kigali time) by video conference,” writes Biruta.

Today’s Summit follows another meeting of Ministers Responsible for Health and EAC Affairs held on March 25 this year chaired by Rwanda’s Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije.

It was held to share existing knowledge and information on the COVID-19 outbreak, deliberate on the COVID-19 Pandemic, map up containment strategies to stem out any further spread of the disease in the region and develop a clear plan to mitigate against impacts caused by COVID -19 pandemic in the region.

The Ministers commended the EAC Partner States, World Health Organisation and Africa CDC for the efforts being made towards addressing the COVID-19 and the steps taken to contain the disease and prevent further spread in the EAC region

They noted the existence of an Adhoc Regional Coordination Committee on COVID -19 response and resolved to add members from each Partner States – National Task force on COVID -19.

The Heads of State are expected to among other things endorse the resolutions by the Ministers responsible for Health and Ministers responsible for East African Community Affairs which include Partner States continuing to implement mandatory quarantine for 14 days for all travelers to the region and avoid imported cases by implementing strict screening procedures at all border points and facilitating the free movements of goods and services in the region.

Others are maintaining suspension of EAC regional face-to-face meetings in preference of Modern Technology such as video-conferences, Webinars and Skype Calls for holding such meetings until such a time when the situation has been contained as well as Partner States implementing 100% exit and entry screenings by applying the multilayer mechanism to avoid some loopholes, such as transit Passengers.

They are also expected to expound on establishing a surveillance system to monitor crew health and enable contact tracing as well as how to strengthen information sharing through press conferences and linkage of national task forces to facilitate quick response, continuous reporting and to facilitate contact tracing for potential COVID-19 exposed persons.

By Wednesday morning, Uganda had 55 confirmed cases, Kenya 216, Rwanda 134, Uganda 55, Tanzania 53, Burundi 5 and South Sudan 4. Globally, there are Coronavirus 2,004,991 confirmed coronavirus cases, 126,839 deaths and 485,827 recovered cases.

On Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni extended measures undertaken by government of Uganda to slow the spread of Covid-19 including partial lockdown, ban on public transport and daily curfew by another three weeks.

He said the country will use the 21 days to defeat the virus decisively or prepare better on how to cope citing asymptomatic cases where a carrier of the virus does not present symptoms but is capable of spreading it to others.

“The 54 (confirmed cases then) may not be the only ones. We got them by blocking them and placing them under quarantine. Some (including contacts) were traced while others volunteered to take tests after they fell sick. But this doesn’t address those who get infected but don’t fall sick. They simply didn’t know and you can’t blame them. But they will be infecting other people for 34 days,” said the President.

“That’s why we think it (extension) is safer. Let’s not be impatient. Let’s wait for another 21 days because if somebody got the virus and is asymptomatic and is circulating in his home, the whole family cannot be asymptomatic. Some will fall sick and we shall test them,” he added.

He said the lifting of the lockdown will be done systematically when it is deemed fit, likely beginning with public transport.

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