EAC strengthens capacity of staff at international airports for the prevention and detection of COVID-19
East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, 30 April, 2020: 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, and many of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the EAC region have also had a history of air travel.
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.
Therefore, the EAC Secretariat and the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) in cooperation with AMREF Flying Doctors (AFD) will offer emergency COVID-19 intervention trainings for staff at the 8 international airports in the 6 EAC Partner States during this time of minimized activity at airports prior to resumption of normal travel. “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. It will build on and improve 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 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 Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors at the East African Community, this training programme 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 programme 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 to passengers and/or their luggage, such as airport medical service providers, aircraft/airline operators, selected crew members, staff at immigration and customs, cargo and baggage handlers, air navigation services and airport rescue and firefighting providers. 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 and are expected to spearhead the development and conduction of targeted training sessions for the rest of the airport personnel. The training is scheduled to start in May 2020. It 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. AFD 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 Organization.
The training is in line with the CASSOA vision of attaining a safe, secure and efficient regional aviation industry and their mission to develop, promote and coordinate 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.
The training is facilitated by the German Government through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in its effort to support states in their response to COVID-19. GIZ supports the EAC Secretariat in its advisory and coordinating role for the Partner States in pandemic preparedness.
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About the East African Community Secretariat:
The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of six Partner States, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The EAC Secretariat is ISO 9001: 2015 Certified