West and Central Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
Trends

Central African Republic

Schools to gradually reopen

  • First case: 14 March 2020

  • Total cases: 4,561 (as of 23 July 2020)

  • Total deaths: 55

  • Schools: Primary and secondary schools gradually reopened on 15 July. By the end of August, all schools across the country will have reopened.

  • Borders/flights: All borders closed.

  • Containment measures: The authorities have adopted a response plan for the health sector and enacted social distancing measures, including the closing of borders, schools, and most public establishments, a ban on meetings of more than 15 people, and restrictions on the movement of people from Bangui.

Situation:

On 22 July, the Ministry of Health reported 13 new COVID-19 cases. Since the first case was detected on 14 March, 4,574 cases have been confirmed including 1,437 recoveries and 57 deaths. So far, 29,068 people have been tested. WHO specifies that the decrease in the number of new cases in recent weeks does not mean an improvement in the epidemiological situation but is related to the new diagnostic strategy that limits testing to symptomatic suspected cases and people at risk. On 10 July, the government announced that primary and secondary schools would gradually reopen starting on 15 July. By the end of August, all schools across the country will have reopened. Schools were closed on 27 March, two weeks after the country's first COVID-19 case was reported. Alternative assessment criteria have been agreed upon for pupils to pass from one class to the next despite the interruption of classes. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the inter-ministerial decree announcing the gradual reopening of schools mentions specific measures to be taken to reduce the risk of contamination with COVID-19, including the division of classrooms and classes, in addition to the usual hygiene measures.

Response:

On 18 June, as part of the European Union's response to the COVID-19 crisis in Africa, the European Commission announced a €54 million grant to the Central African Republic to help the government shore up public expenditure negatively affected by the fight against the virus. Slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus means that the Central African government must use part of its resources for preventive health measures, which significantly increases pressure on public finances. The EU is therefore intervening with two budget support programmes going towards consolidating the State (€45 million) and reforming the security and governance sector (€9 million).

The Central African Republic (CAR) government intends to implement a response plan for the health sector that was prepared in collaboration with WHO, with an estimated cost of $6.3 billion (1.9 percent of GDP). This plan goes beyond an immediate response plan and contains measures to strengthen the ability of the healthcare system to deal with such pandemics in the future. It notably aims at: (i) providing medical care for confirmed cases; (ii) improving the monitoring of the country’s points of entry; and (iii) strengthening the capacities of the medical staff, laboratories and hospitals. The government has requested the help of its development partners to finance this plan through grants and loans. On 8 May, in collaboration with OCHA and WFP, France and the European Union organized a humanitarian airlift to support the response to COVID-19. The plane arrived in Bangui from France with 70 front-line humanitarian workers on board and 40 tons of medicines and personal protection equipment (PPE). The European Commissioner or Crisis Management, Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection met with government representatives, the Humanitarian Coordinator, and representatives from the Humanitarian Country Team to discuss the humanitarian situation as well as the ongoing response and gaps.

The World Bank approved on 23 April a grant of $7.5 million from the International Development Association (IDA) to help respond to the threat posed by the Coronavirus outbreak and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness. The COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project will provide immediate support to CAR to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through containment strategies and by strengthening public health emergency response capacities.The project will bring in essential medical supplies and drugs, testing kits, PPE for frontline health workers, and water and hygiene supplies for the population. In addition, it will help strengthen the coordination and support for preparedness, train health workers, and carry out risk communication campaigns and community outreach.

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