East African Community Partner States have been urged to support local production of essential medical products and supplies including masks, sanitizers, soaps, processed food, ventilators as part of efforts to combat COVID-19 in the region.
This comes after a joint consultative meeting of Partner States’ Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries responsible for Health, Trade, Transport and EAC Affairs via video conference held on 8th May, 2020 to discuss a regional approach to COVID-19 further directed Partner States to facilitate farmers to continue farming activities during this pandemic and post COVID-19 period.
A lot of meetings are taking place at the helm of the secretariat trying to figure out ways of containing the pandemic.
Another meeting of the Summit of EAC Heads of State is set to be held today, 12th May, 2020 via video conferencing to, among other things, discuss regional preparedness and response on COVID-19 Pandemic.
A communiqué will be released at the end of the meeting details the proceedings of the meeting as well as agreements arrived at.
The consultative Health Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries meeting also directed Partner States to support agro-processing and value chains as an import substitution measure.
According to a statement from the secretariat by the Ministers requested the Ministries of Finance in the Partner States to establish special purpose financing schemes for small and medium enterprises, to cushion them from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministers gave these directives in response to information availed to them that that the region’s key productive sectors are already experiencing a slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with sectors such as agriculture, trade, manufacturing and industry, tourism, offline retail and catering being the worst affected.
“Among the negative impacts on the regional economy are a food crisis in East Africa and severe disruptions in manufacturing and industry value chains. On the flipside are beneficial developments such as: increased production of face masks in the region; growing popularity of online retail using e-commerce platforms; growing popularity of online entertainment, and; increased Telecommuting and distance education.” The statement reads in part.
The consultative meeting which was convened by Hon. Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, also discussed progress made on the facilitation of the free movement of goods and services in the region; assessment of state of play on cross border clearance of cargo and truck drivers at Malaba and Busia during the COVID 19 pandemic; Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region’s productive capacities and Impact on Macroeconomic stability.
The Ministers commended the EAC Partner States, WHO and Africa CDC for the efforts being made towards addressing the COVID-19, and the steps taken to contain the disease and prevent further spread in the EAC region.
On a harmonized approach to testing services across Partner States, the Ministers urged Partner States to undertake standardised COVID -19 testing based on approved WHO methodologies.
The Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries requested the Ministers of Finance to analyse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fiscal and monetary sectors of the EAC region and recommend an appropriate plan of action.
According to the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sector, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, the Ministers that the EAC Regional Task Force has finalised the EAC Regional COVID-19 Response Plan which aims to among other things, ensure a joint and well-coordinated mechanism to fight COVID-19 in the region; timely access to medical therapeutics and health technologies to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the region; as well as to minimize the number of people who become infected or sick with COVID-19.
The Ministers also directed the Secretariat to submit the EAC Regional COVID-19 Response plan to the Partner States and urged the Partner States to submit their inputs on EAC Regional COVID-19 Response plan within one week from the date of submission of the document.
On the supply of covid-19 test kits, equipment and other supplies to the Partner States, Hon Bazivamo informed the Ministers that EAC Secretariat through the EAC Network of Public Health Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases (Mobile Lab Project) had received a grant of €500,000 to support the strengthening of laboratory capacity for COVID-19 response in the Partner States.
“The funds were intended to, among other things, purchase and supply adequate tests to facilitate scale-up of testing in East Africa (1,000 COVID-19 test kits per Partner State) and the supply of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in addition to those already procured under the Support to the Ebola response.” Hon. Bazivamo told the meeting.
On the facilitation of the free movement of goods and services in the region, the meeting noted that the Partner States were experiencing challenges in facilitating movement of goods and services.
Consequently, the Ministers directed the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with Partner States to implement a sensitization programmme to destigmatize truck drivers and COVID-19 recoverees in the region.
They further directed the EAC Secretariat to coordinate the activities under the sensitization programmes in the Partner States.
Today’s heads of state meeting will be briefed on the outcome of this meeting as they deliberate on the suggestions made by the ministers.