Successful Health Responses to COVID-19: The Case of Mauritius and Senegal

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant at a school to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus in Dakar, Senegal. Sylvain Cherkaoui/AP

African countries are at the forefront in strengthening their public health systems to tackle COVID-19. While there remains huge uncertainty, the rates of infections and deaths in the region have not been as high as previously anticipated.

According to the Africa’s Pulse report, charting the road to recovery, the region had one confirmed case in every 1,000 people and about 25,000 deaths as of end of September 2020.

“These relatively low numbers can be partly explained by governments that have acted rapidly, followed science, and incorporated innovative solutions. Drawing from the lessons of previous epidemics, African countries implemented effective communication strategies as well as a series of stringent containment measures,” says the report.

Although the pandemic is still not under control in the region, there are some cases where governments have been able to reduce the spread of infections. 

In Mauritius, the Africa’s Pulse report says that the country has successfully contained the number of infections and deaths from covid-19. The country has registered no fatalities for almost five months due to the government’s quick response to the health pandemic.

At the beginning of the year, the country imposed a series of protocol measures for visitors arriving from abroad-including temperature checks and 14 day quarantines for travelers from high risk countries.

The country later on closed its borders by mid-March after registering its first three Covid-19 cases and a full lockdown by the end of the month.

Health services in the country were fully functional. The government managed to setup a mobile application beSafeMoris which enabled citizens to obtain real-time information about health and safety measures.

The country leads Africa in testing 1,000 people (193.6)per day, a rate that is comparable to that of Norway and New Zealand.

The country has not registered any deaths since the end of April.

“However, the country is still facing the severe economic costs of a sharp decline in economic activity during the second quarter of 2020. For instance, industrial production plunged 40.4 percent year-on-year in 2020,” the report explains.

Senegal on the other hand has managed to successfully reduce the number of cases since mid-August and slowed the death rate in September.  

“Senegal’s strategy to combat the health effects of the pandemic included fast action, clear communication, and learning from the 2014 Ebola lessons,” says the report.

The report adds that the Health Emergency operations were activated immediately the first case was confirmed. The country also declared a state of emergency, enforced a curfew, and suspended domestic and international travel.

Innovation has also played a role in the country’s fight against the pandemic. The Institut Pasteur in Dakar developed a diagnostic test for COVID-19 at an affordable cost (US$1) to be used at home and gives immediate results. Senegalese researchers used 3D printers to manufacture ventilators for as low as US$160.

Hotels were transformed into quarantine units and Senegalese Red Cross volunteers distributed food to people under 14-day quarantine who had been in contact with confirmed cases.

The Ministry of Health provided regular updates on the numbers of infections, fatalities, and recoveries. In addition, temperature checks and bottles of hand sanitizer were made available at every grocery store and restaurant. Citizen compliance has also been high.

As of September 28, 2020, Senegal recorded 40 new cases daily—down from about 150 in mid-August. More than 80 percent of the 14,919 confirmed cases have recovered, and 309 have died.

Despite the country’s successful containment measures, it’s economic activities declined during the second quarter of 2020. For instance, industrial production fell by 3.7 percent year-on-year in May.

Both countries have made extraordinary progress that other African countries can learn from. However, the health crisis is not over, and governments need to continue running public health systems in order to avoid relapses and prevent the spread of future pandemics.

Read also: Africa’s Pulse: Digital sector responses to COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa

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