Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 09 September 2020

Three Accelerators To Help Health Services Respond Faster To COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world: dominating our mindscape, international discourse, national budgets and overwhelming global health systems. COVID-19 has challenged every industry – especially healthcare – to think differently, rely on data, target action and rapidly trial new models of care and technology in the race to save lives and preserve health.

BroadReach, a group of social impact businesses, hosted an online meeting with industry leaders to explore how data and technology have helped to speed up the time for health services to respond to COVID-19. Through the discussion, three major themes emerged highlighting how technology, data and human action can make a lasting positive impact.

  1.  Access to real-time data is essential

Intervention without real-time data is like driving blind in a storm, a steady flow of information on the cloud enables targeted, intelligent, swift action. For example, the Department of Health in Mpumalanga in South Africa slowed the spread of COVID-19 and were able to direct health resources rapidly using live data to identify potential hotspots and coordinate a response.

The health department focused on presumptive screening results (where someone is presumed to have COVID-19 but has not yet tested positive) and used BroadReach's Vantage cloud platform, with advanced geo-mapping technology, to identify potential clusters or hotspots. They used this 'presumptive approach' as an early warning signal, saving vital time while waiting for positive test results to be confirmed up to two weeks later. This enabled them to ensure facilities in potential hotspot areas were ready to care for patients, identify areas that required field hospitals, customise educational health programmes and direct interventions using data on comorbidities (including HIV, TB and hypertension).

"We used presumptive screening data, collected via a mobile application so that we could ensure the data was available in real-time," explained Bheki Mdlovu, Acting Chief Director: Integrated Health in the Mpumalanga Department of Health in South Africa. "Normally, a test can take between four to 12 days so we used the presumptive suspect data collected during screenings ahead COVID-positive data being available. While we waited for results, we were able to act quickly to deploy resources to affected areas as velocity and agility are very important. By the time the test results were received, we were already working to contain the spread."

  1. Augmented intelligence enables rapid and informed action plans

COVID-19 has forced digital transformation, accelerating how we create, harness and use data, processes and technology. Human intelligence, combined with artificial intelligence (AI), has helped health professionals to make better decisions faster. According to Mohammed Saleh, Health Industry Leader at Microsoft Middle East Africa, "a crisis is an opportunity to reinvent a successful future".

BroadReach's Vantage cloud platform, used by the Department of Health in Mpumalanga, is enabled by AI to help healthcare professionals and other decision-makers upload, access, integrate and analyse data in real-time. Crucially, the population health management system provides prescriptive recommended actions and workflows, which includes data and directions for managing comorbidities, maintaining a healthy workforce, contact tracing, as well as stock and facility management.

  1. Collaboration and leadership is needed to achieve common goals

Dimagi Director of Partnerships in Southern & East Africa, Carlos Yerena, highlighted the importance of healthcare professionals, government departments and corporates working together to overcome the barriers. Dimagi has transferred much of its learning from responding to Ebola to the current situation. "Collaboration is very important and, sometimes, it takes a pandemic for us to really unlock these meaningful collaborations," said Yerena. "In some instances, you would believe they have competing interests but establishing these strategic partnerships really supported governments and partners, and helped them utilise the different platforms in the best interests of a common goal."

Saleh adds that with digital transformation, healthcare can change from a reactive, disconnected and cyclical process to a more intelligent, continuous collaboration process where data is collected from multiple sources then pieced together. Mdlovu concurred, advocating for a connected data approach where the patient has their own personal data, linked to the health provider, health insurer and policymaker to promote a proactive wellness plan.

Chris LeGrand, Group CEO at BroadReach, highlighted the importance of leadership and sustainability through a pandemic. "By harnessing the power of collaboration and leadership in combating this pandemic, we are better placed to extend access to basic healthcare, thus getting closer to the United Nations goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC)  for every human. This could be a positive legacy for COVID-19."

The vital ingredient to pandemic response is leadership. "Ultimately, leaders cause things to happen that would not happen otherwise. For this reason, leadership is essential to drive the wheels of change," concludes LeGrand.

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African Countries Engaging In Ground-Breaking Covid-19 Vaccine Initiative

While the race to find safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines continues, African countries are signing up to a ground-breaking initiative, which aims to secure at least 220 million doses of the vaccine for the continent, once licensed and approved.

All 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in COVAX, a global initiative which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The partners are working with governments and manufacturers to procure enough vaccine doses to protect the most vulnerable populations on the continent.

Through the Gavi-coordinated COVAX Facility, the initiative seeks to ensure access for all: both higher and middle-income countries which will self-finance their own participation, and lower-middle income and low-income countries which will have their participation supported by the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

There are eight countries in Africa that have agreed to self-finance their vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility. This expression of interest will turn into binding commitments to join the initiative by 18 September, with upfront payments to follow no later than 9 October 2020.

"Equatorial Guinea has signed up to COVAX as it's the most effective way to ensure that our people can access COVID-19 vaccines," said Hon Mitoha Ondo'O Ayekaba, Vice Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Equatorial Guinea. "We are concerned as some wealthier countries have made moves to secure their own interests. We believe that through this initiative we can access successfully tested vaccines in a timely manner and at lower cost."

In addition, 46 countries in Africa are eligible for support from the financing instrument, the COVAX AMC which has raised approximately US$ 700 million against an initial target of securing US$ 2 billion seed funding from high-income donor countries, as well as private sector and philanthropists by the end of 2020.

"COVAX is a ground-breaking global initiative which will include African countries and ensure they are not left at the back of the queue for COVID-19 vaccines," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. "By reaching beyond the continent to work together with other governments and manufacturers on a global scale and pooling buying power, countries can protect the people most vulnerable to the disease in Africa."

CEPI is leading COVAX vaccine research and aims to develop up to three safe and effective vaccines which will be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. Nine candidate vaccines are currently being supported by CEPI; two are currently being tested in South Africa, in addition to other regions around the world.  

"It's critical that countries in Africa participate in vaccine trials, in addition to the clinical trials taking place in other regions of the world," said Dr Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI.

"Testing vaccines on the continent ensures that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa once vaccines are approved.

CEPI is investing in the research and development of a diverse range of vaccine candidates, with the aim of delivering safe and effective vaccines to those who need them most through COVAX."

Through COVAX, vaccines that have passed regulatory approval or WHO prequalification will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations. Health workers and other vulnerable populations will be prioritized and then vaccine availability will expand to cover additional priority populations in participating countries.

African countries will need to have in place the right systems and infrastructure to define the regulatory and ethical pathways for a quick approval of a candidate vaccine. They will need to have logistics and supply chain systems which can reach not only the traditional target populations for routine immunizations and campaigns but be ready to vaccinate a much larger target population.

"To roll out a vaccine effectively across countries in Africa, it is critical that communities are engaged and understand the need for vaccination," said Dr Richard Mihigo, Programme Area Manager, Immunization and Vaccine Development, Programme Area Manager, Immunization and Vaccine Development, WHO Regional Office for Africa.

"It is important to already start working with communities to prepare the way for one of the largest vaccination campaigns Africa has ever experienced."

Dr Mihigo, Dr Hatchett and Vice Minister Mitoha Ondo'O Ayekaba participated in a virtual press conference on COVID-19 vaccine access in Africa today facilitated by APO Group.


COVID19: New Tenants To Get 3 Rent-Free Months

As traders are struggling to bounce back from the gallows of COVID19 pandemic, landlords are giving them offers that will facilitator them to do business in a sustainable manner.

In that spirit, Crane Management Services, the real estate and property management agency at Ruparelia Group, has announced that it will offer new tenants 3 Rent-Free Months.

The offer is for Hardware City on Entebbe Road, Hardware Plaza near Nakasero Market, Market Plaza located at Market Street in Kampala and Electrical Plaza located along Market Street in Nakasero.

However, Crane Management Services managers said the offer doesn’t apply for apartments on these buildings. Only shop and office space qualify for this offer.

Hardware Plaza which opened in 2016 sits on about 27000 square meters of prime land, has 281 shops and 66 residential apartments, Electrical Plaza has 220 shops, 56 apartments and two floors of parking, Market Plaza has 250shops and 110 offices with a wide packing to accommodate over 100 cars.

Rajiv Ruparelia, the managing director of Crane Management Services Limited said they are offering city traders three rent-free months such that they can have a chance to operate their businesses without any encumbrances or stress about rent.

This offer comes at a time when traders in Kampala are having a push and pull relationship with their landlords over rent arrears. After almost five months under COVID19 lockdown, many traders are short of money to afford the rent bill.

Therefore, discounts and offers as such that Crane Management Services if offering comes handy for both the landlord and tenant. While the tenant wants a place to put his or her business, the landlord also is in need of tenants.

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Uganda COVID19 Cases Cross The 4000 Mark

Uganda Tuesday 8th September 2020 recorded 201 new positive COVID19 cases pushing the country's tally to 4101.

A break down indicates that of the 201 Tuesday cases, 2 were Ugandan truck drivers, 45 were alerts, 153 contacts and 1 returnee from UAE.

Luckily there was no death recorded on Tuesday. The cumulative number of recoveries now stands at 1, 876.

These new numbers mean that Uganda's cumulative confirmed cases is 4, 101 and 46 deaths. 417, 897 Ugandans have been tested so far.

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COVID19: Victoria University Reveals Date To Commence Online Classes

President Yoweri Museveni recently guided that the education sector should be systematically be reopened by first allowing medical students to return to their respective training centers.

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHEE) also communicated to universities it has had inspected and found fit to reopen permitting them to conduct online classes or e-learning.

And through the faculty of health sciences, Victoria University has announced that it will start conducting online classes for its students on the 28th September 2020.

The Ag.Vice Chancellor of Victoria University Bill Nkeeto said the reopening of schools for students undertaking health-related courses will curb the human resource gap in the health sector.

Nkeeto emphasized that they will continue to follow strict guidelines and SOP recommendations issued by the ministry of health and other government agencies and experts.

Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) through its member bodies has been working hard to ensure that education resumes following the issuance of COVID-19 SOP guidelines which were issued in September 2020.

The NCHE conducted an inspection of the Victoria University e-learning facilities and was convinced that this Premier University was ready to start its online teaching programmes for its students.

The permission is valid for twelve (12) months or the duration of the COVID-19 crisis as will be determined by the relevant authorities and renewal can be applied for at least (2) months before the expiry of the (12) twelve months period if necessary.


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