Thursday, July 2, 2020

Botswana’s infectious disease surveillance network may not be ready for coronavirus outbreak- report

Despite assurances by government that Botswana is ready for a coronavirus outbreak, a report passed to the Sunday Standard suggests that in the event of an outbreak, the country’s early warning system for infectious disease control and prevention might fall short. 

Early warning system (EWS) scores are tools used by hospital care teams to recognise the early signs of clinical deterioration in order to initiate early intervention and management, such as increasing nursing attention or activating a rapid response or medical emergency team.

According to Southern Health Institute (SHI) – which commissioned the country level report entitled 2019 Southern Africa Annual Health Report with a focus on Botswana, there is no evidence to show that as a country we are investing towards improving infectious disease control and prevention. Some of the measures that Botswana should have taken over the past few years include building “new laboratories and coming up with a rigid nationwide Infectious Diseases Reporting System”. The report also says such an “extensive reporting system” is absent in the country and there are no “rigid laws on infectious diseases control and public health emergencies”.

According to the report early warning systems are designed for “attention escalation and rapid response in all of the country’s cities and towns”. But at the moment if hospitals in Botswana record infectious disease cases, it is very difficult to forward the information on a timely basis. This means it is very difficult to “block or tackle future various outbreaks such as malaria”.

Amongst other things the report states that in order for the system to be effective, “the collection of surveillance data must be standardised on a national basis.” Southern Health Institute further says in order for Botswana to curtail outbreaks then there is need for targeted research into disease and ensuring that surveillance data is made available at local and national level.

Although Botswana health officials say the country is prepared for any corona virus outbreak, Southern Health Institute says there is high likelihood that first responders and nursing will be overwhelmed.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.