The training of airport staff in Juba on how to prevent and respond to COVID-19 is expected to kick off next week, the EAC Secretariat has announced in a statement.
Airports in the EAC region enhanced their preparedness and response measures early and have been able to intercept several COVID-19 susceptible travelers through intensified surveillance and screening.
Yet, airports continue to be high-risk areas for the spread of infectious diseases.
In a statement seen by Eye Radio, the EAC secretariat stated that it will offer emergency COVID-19 intervention training for staff at the 8 international airports in the 6 EAC Partner States.
The first training of trainers (TOT) started May 26, 2020, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya.
The airport staff training is expected to follow in Mombasa, Juba, Entebbe, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Kigali.
The training for Juba International Airport is scheduled for 08-11 June 2020.
The statement says the training will take place during this time of minimized activity at airports prior to the resumption of normal travel.
It says human mobility across countries, largely driven by air travel, has been one of the main vectors that facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world.
The EAC secretariate added that many of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the EAC region have also had a history of air travel.
The training is being coordinated by the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency – CASSOA, in cooperation with AMREF Flying Doctors and supported by the Germany Government through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit -GIZ GmbH.
The Germany Ambassador is expected to officiate at the opening ceremony.
“Investments in strengthening surveillance, building robust early-warning systems, and coordinating public health responses of international airports will help to detect and respond to COVID-19 and prevent further spread,” says Emile Nguza Arao, Executive Director of CASSOA.
The training aims to enhance awareness of national and airport emergency preparedness and response plans, public health capacities at the airports and prevention, and surveillance of the spread of COVID-19 in and out of the region through airports.
The secretariat says the training will build on and improves existing frameworks and resources to develop more robust emergency management systems and procedures while at the same time facilitating airport collaboration.
The training will be implemented by AMREF Flying Doctors to build the knowledge of the staff on safety measures, surveillance, prevention and control strategies, and relevant regional guidelines.
“AFD will offer a comprehensive Training of Trainers to enable the airports to develop their own staff training and surveillance regimes” says Stephen Gitau, AFD Chief Executive Officer.
“This will contribute greatly toward the pillar of enhanced safety for travelers and the duty of care of Partner States towards their airport staff.”
According to Christophe Bazivamo, the Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors at the East African Community, this training program was communicated to and was commended by the Joint Ministerial Meeting for the Ministers responsible for Health and Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs on the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response on 25th March 2020.
The meeting directed the EAC Secretariat to ensure implementation facilitation of such measures across borders intending to stop the spread of the pandemic in the region.
Therefore, the EAC Secretariat appreciates that this EAC planned program is now ready to start.
While past capacity building and awareness measures primarily focused on port health staff, this training will involve a wide range of staff with close contact with passengers and their luggage.
They include airport medical service providers, aircraft/airline operators, selected crew members, the staff at immigration and customs, cargo and baggage handlers, air navigation services, and airport rescue and firefighting providers.
The statement says the training composes of two 2-day courses at each of the 8 international airports in the EAC Partner States.
Topics will include among others “the airport as a “red zone” – recognition of hot zones in the airport and measures to identify and demarcate these areas”; “quarantine and isolation of passengers” and “decontamination of aircraft and airport areas”.
Each class will have 15 participants – taking into account social distancing requirements – so that a total of 240 key airport personnel will become trained trainers.
It stated they are expected to spearhead the development and conduction of targeted training sessions for the rest of the airport personnel.
The training will be done by two teams of three trainers divided to cover the 8 airports over a period of about 30 days. Subsequently, the trained trainers will develop and conduct their own classes to roll-out their brief training sessions.
AMREF Flying Doctors will support the process and monitor the progress.
The course design and curriculum development will be based on the International Health Regulations, best practices of the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control as well as the Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation
The training is in line with the EAC Civil Aviation Agency vision of attaining a safe, secure, and efficient regional aviation industry and their mission to develop, promote and coordinate the implementation of sustainable civil aviation safety and security oversight systems in the Partner States.
“It also covers measures highlighted in the EAC Regional Health Sector Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Response Plan, which is designed to support and help coordinate the regional response,” explains Dr. Michael Katende, Acting Head of EAC’s Health Department.
Article first published on Eye Radio.