Posted on 13 Jul, 2020 by Nehle Frerick & Chinelo Ebruke

The outbreak of the corona virus disease in 2019, (COVID-19), that started in the Hubei province of China, has now spread to all continents, affecting 188 countries in all regions. As of July 1st, 2020, over 10 million people have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease, with over 500,000 deaths recorded globally. In West Africa, with all 15 regional countries confirming reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, it is gravely concerning given the vulnerability of the comparatively weak health systems in the region.

To aid with the fight against COVID-19, the West African Health Organization, (WAHO), has been actively involved in assisting all member countries to scale up their readiness and capacity for response to COVID-19 outbreaks by providing them with all the necessary equipment and supplies, along with an effective dissemination of information strategies and specific training for the healthcare personnel. Due to lockdowns and various restrictions to movement imposed by many countries in the region and globally; the abovementioned training organized by WAHO is delivered online by experts in various aspects of the healthcare delivery system.

Since diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV2 forms a critical part of the COVID-19 surveillance and response activities, the German Development Bank, (KfW), funded project, (PROALAB), recently supported the delivery of such an online training in “COVID-19 Laboratory Diagnostic Steps”, through its implementing partner GFA Consulting Group. Both KfW and GFA Consulting Group were previously already working in collaboration with the WAHO in strengthening laboratory capacity in the West African sub-region. The abovementioned online training was facilitated by Dr Olivier Manigart, Senior team leader of the PROALAB project. The PROALAB project focuses on strengthening national and regional reference laboratories through needs-based finance of durable high-quality equipment that includes reagents, consumables and further capacity building via cross cutting themes towards ISO15189 accreditation:

The “COVID-19 Laboratory Diagnostic Steps” online training took place on the 23rd of April and was delivered via zoom video conferencing in both French and English. The objective of the training was to describe the important laboratory diagnostic concepts and to discuss the existing relevant documentation pertaining to laboratory diagnostics that were developed by separate institutions to guide participants through appropriate references and websites in order to aid their broader understanding of the core concepts.

Specific topics covered within the training included sampling methods, sample transport, extraction methods, RT-PCR and alternative tests. Testing strategies adopted by different countries within the region were also discussed. Prior registration for the training course was significantly over-subscribed with a total of 143 trainees participating in the initial course. Trainees were predominantly laboratory personnel from public health institutions currently involved with COVID-19 testing in the ECOWAS region. As a direct result of the tremendous interest in the initial course, the course Faculty, led by Dr Olivier Manigart, therefore conducted a subsequent training session on the 5th of May, 2020 with 425 participants included. Positive feedback from the attendees confirmed how the training was indeed well timed and had successfully addressed some critical gaps within their prior knowledge.

An interview with Dr. Oliver Manigart is published on La Libre Belgium in French , (only for subscribers).

Here you can open the interview from La Libre Belgium in  French or English (PDF).