Published 2nd April, 2020
In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, as there was a high risk of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world. As of 2nd April 2020, more than 896,450 cases have been confirmed in more than 200 countries, more than 45,526 people have died from the disease, but about 135,000 have also already recovered since the outbreak started. The EAC region did not stay unaffected and has to date confirmed cases in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Most infected people developed only mild symptoms and the average global death rate among confirmed cases of about 4 % is low compared to that of other infectious diseases which we are facing in the region, such as HIV/AIDS, Measles or Ebola. This rate might be almost 10 times higher than average for those over 80, and much lower for those under 40. Most affected by the pandemic is less the health sector, but the economy as a whole, including trade and tourism, as main life-lines in the region.
To succeed in combating the pandemic, all sections of our society including employers and businesses – must play a role and work together. The virus that causes the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that had not been identified in humans until the outbreak of the disease in 2019.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that are common in animals and cause illness in humans ranging from a mild cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Other known coronaviruses are circulating in animals without causing illness in humans.
The COVID-19 outbreak has taken its toll on many countries worldwide and has caused huge economic losses with various sectors affected and impacted upon.
In the following we are providing answers to frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19:
+ What is a Coronavirus?
+ What does COVID-19 stand for?
+ What is COVID-19?
+ What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
+ Who is most at risk of catching COVID-19?
+ Do I need to worry about my children?
+ How does COVID-19 spread?
+ How can I prevent myself from getting infected?
+ Which hygiene measures are effective?
Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Rub your hands together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
+ Should I wear a facemask to protect myself against the virus?
+ What can I do to protect others if I am sick or have tested positive with the Coronavirus Disease?
Stay home if you’re sick, except to get medical care, even if it is not yet clear if you are infected with the Coronavirus or just suffer from a common cold.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and wash it afterwards.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g. when sharing a room or vehicle and before you enter a healthcare centre
- First clean and then disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
+ Can someone who is released from COVID-19 quarantine still spread the disease?
Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is no longer considered a risk for spreading the virus because he/she did not develop symptoms during the incubation period.
Quarantine means separating a person (or group of people) who has been exposed to a contagious disease but has not developed symptoms from others who have not been exposed, to prevent the possible spread of that disease.
Quarantine is usually established for the length of the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the time span during which people would have developed symptoms after exposure. For COVID-19 this period is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.
+ How can I contribute to avoiding stigmatising people related to COVID-19?
Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards people who were quarantined for COVID-19. Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and how it spreads or with gossip and myths.
You can fight stigma and help, not hurt, others by providing social support. You can counter stigma by learning and sharing facts, for example that viruses do not target specific groups in the population.
+ Is there a treatment for COVID-19?
+ Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?
+ Must I fear COVID 19?
Every viral disease needs to be taken seriously and COVID-19 is highly contagious. Therefore, it can spread rapidly and infect many people in a short period of time. But, the symptoms of COVID-19 are in most cases mild. Many patients will never even see a doctor. With about 4 % the average death rate for COVID-19 is also rather low compared to other diseases that we are facing in the region. For comparison: The death rate for measles outbreaks of for the Ebola Virus Disease can be above 60 % and up to 100 % of people infected with Rabies will die.
Another example: In China, with a total population of more than 1,4 billion people, only about 80,000 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
+ What can I do to ensure my workplace is safe for me and my colleague?
You can reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at your workplaces:
- Make sure your workplace is clean including surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards). Wipe them with disinfectant regularly;
- Encourage regular and thorough hand-washing by staff and visitors;
- Ensure your workplace has adequate ventilation to allow fresh air to circulate (good respiratory hygiene);
- Keep your colleagues well about COVID-19 and share any new information. But abstain from spreading rumours that have no underlying facts.
+ Is it safe to use public transport (Dalla Dalla or Matatu) with regard to COVID-19?
+ Can I attend the church service?
+ Are Africans less at risk of contracting the COVID-19 compared to other races?
+ Does eating bush meat pose a risk for COVID-19 infections?
+ Are patients who recovered from COVID-19 immune against the virus?
+ How safe are goods from China?
+ Can I get COVID-19 through second-hand clothes from overseas?
The virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on clothes or other surfaces for some hours, depending on other factors like temperature or humidity. However, if the second-hand clothes came from overseas, they travelled a long time and were disinfected before export as recommended by international standards. This makes it very unlikely that the virus survives in second-hand clothes.
If you are still suspicious and want to be on the absolute safe side, wash the clothes at 60 C or more with washing powder. This will safely kill the virus.