East Africa prepares eight airports for return of flights

by Amref Health Africa

Arusha. Training courses have commenced at East Africa’s eight international airports on prevention of COVID-19 ahead of resumption of flight schedules as the region is cautiously easing travel restrictions.

The first training got under way on Wednesday at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. Similar training courses will follow in Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Entebbe, Juba, Bujumbura and Kigali, the East African Community (EAC) secretariat said in a statement yesterday.

The Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar is believed to be among the eight designated airports though not mentioned in the dispatch. The Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (Cassoa), an institution of the community, is coordinating the exercise.

The emergency of COVID-19 intervention trainings are being implemented by Amref Flying Doctors, a Nairobi-based leading international health NGO.

Cassoa executive director Emile Nguza Arao said the training will involve staff from the civil aviation authorities and those from the allied sectors.

They are airline operators, port health, animal health, immigration, customs, cargo and clearance and airport security and others.

“It will strengthen surveillance, building robust early warning systems and coordinating public health responses,” he said.

This, he observed, will help pre-vent, detect and respond to the Covid-19 outbreak and that a total of 240 key airport personnel from the eight airports will be involved.

The trainings implement parts of the EAC Covid-19 Response Plan. It is facilitated by the German government which has offered millions of euros. EAC recently described airports as ‘high risk areas’ for the spread of highly infectious diseases such as Covid-19.

With the initial corona-virus cases into the region having been ‘imported’ from abroad, air-ports have been blamed for having facilitated its rapid spread. Official statistics on EAC web-site indicate Covid-19 confirmed cases in the region are 3,146 with no deaths reported in Rwanda and Uganda.

Until Wednesday this week, Kenya had 1,348 cases, South Sudan 655, Tanzania 509, Uganda 253, Rwanda 339 and Burundi 42.

One of the key interventions to slow the spread of the disease under the EAC Covid-19 Response Plan is to strengthen surveillance at the border points.

Article first published on The Citizen, Tanzania.

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