Ethiopia is home to one of Africa’s busiest international airline hubs. With support from WHO and other partners, the country is bolstering preparedness to contain a potential outbreak of coronavirus disease, now known as COVID-19. The national health authorities are tightening up surveillance, diagnosis, infection prevention and control, epidemic response coordination and public health education to swiftly detect cases and limit widespread infections. Ethiopia is among 13 African countries the World Health Organization (WHO) considers as top priority for COVID-19 preparedness due to direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
Since January 2020, there have been numerous alerts for coronavirus disease reported in Ethiopia but after investigation, including the testing of suspect cases, no case has been confirmed in the country. More than 2000 passengers with travel history to China have been screened. The country’s main international airport in the capital Addis Ababa is the third busiest in Africa. The national flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines flies 35 times a week to China, but not to Wuhan city in Hubei province, the epi-centre of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. While there has been no confirmed case reported in sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO Regional Office for Africa continues to strengthen its support to countries to detect and manage suspect cases and ensure a robust response. WHO has shipped reagent kits for coronavirus diagnosis to more than 20 countries in Africa including Ethiopia to step up diagnosis of the virus and is working closely with countries to help them prepare for the rapid detection and response to cases or clusters. Ethiopia now has the capacity to conduct confirmatory laboratory test for COVID-19.The health authorities in Ethiopia with WHO support have also trained 60 national rapid response team members on coronavirus surveillance, medical care for patients, public health communication and countering misinformation and rumours.