Analysis: As Covid-19 centers prepare for worst scenarios, MoH complains of shortage of equipment, warns public against ignoring prevention guidelines

Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health. Photo: Personal Social Media

By Getahun Tsegaye @GetahunTsegay12

Addis Abeba, August 13/2021 – Ministry of Health (MoH) previously said that studies and research were underway to investigate the emergence of the COVID Delta variant in Ethiopia. While briefing journalists on July 13, 2021 regarding the spread of the new COVID- 19 Delta variant, Health Minister Leah Tadesse(Ph.D) said that Alpha and Beta strains of the virus in Ethiopia were confirmed by previous tests, and investigation was commenced to check the presence of the new Delta virus.

Taking the current prevalence of COVID-19 report from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MoH), Addis Standard recalled the prior investigation the Ministry was working on and asked designated healthcare officials to provide us the real situation of the virus in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) announced an update on Covid-19 cases. According to the report, In the last 24 hours, from a total of 7,420 laboratory tests, 898 people tested positive for Covid-19. The total number of people infected with the virus across the country has reached 287,184 and a total of 264,935 people have recovered so far, while total deaths stood at 4,452.

In light of the rising cases, Addis Standard spoke to Dr. Yared Agidew, Medical Director of Yeka Kotebe General Hospital (First full fledged Covid-19 center in the country), for explanation on the current increment in the number of Covid-19 cases in Ethiopia and whether or not it is connected to anything the new vital Delta variant and if any confirmed cases were registered at his facility. The medical director explained that there was not any confirmed case of the Delta variant but the number of Covid-19 patients was increasing every single day since the past two weeks.

Dr. Yared explained that he and his team were investigating if the surge in the number of Covid-19 is connected to the new Delta Variant. He said, “A laboratory test has to be administered to confirm such cases. So far, the Ministry of Health and Public Health Institute have not arrived at any confirmation yet.”

When asked about the preparedness of the center for cases of the Delta variant, he explained, “Delta Variant virus differs from the previous variants in that it is highly communicable from person to person. If infected with this variant, patients will need high oxygen and their chance of survival is minimal because the variant is deadly.”

Dr. Yared detailed that the center learned lessons from the previous Covid-19 cases and prepared itself to tackle the Delta variant in case of arrival in the country. He explained, “We previously had 12 Intensive Care Units which were incompatible with the high volume number of incoming patients, but now we tripled it with 34 rooms that have different health equipment, machines, oxygen supply and central oxygen system.”

Dr. Yared emphasized on the role played by healthcare professionals for over a year and half since the eruption of coronavirus and highlighted a new arrangement where breaks were given based on a rotating schedule. 

In pursuit of a better understanding behind the increasing numbers of news cases and its relation to the Delta variant, Addis Standard asked Dr. Wuletaw Chane, Executive Director at Millennium Covid-19 Care Center, who disclosed that the center does not have any confirmed case related to Delta Variant and underlined that there was not any confirmed case in Ethiopia yet. He, however, stated that the number of patients tripled in the past two weeks saying, “We had 20 Covid-19 patients in our Intensive Care Unit but now the number has reached 60, this forced us to increase the number of which we increased our Intensive Care Units from one to three.”

Yesterday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse  at the weekly presser briefed local reporters on current challenges with regard to the prevalence of COVID-19. She explained  that a few weeks ago, the rate of which the number of cases was rising was relatively low. However, she argued that over the past 3 weeks the number of positive of Covid-19 has been increasing at an alarming rate. 

In the briefing, Dr. Lia underlined that the number of people infected and are admitted to ICU units as well as death cases has increased dramatically in recent weeks. 

She explained that the percentage of positive Covid-19 in the total number of individuals tested within the last three weeks increased from 2.8% to 7.4% whereas registered cases increase by four fold each week from an average of 831 per week to 3302.

The Minister, moreover, indicated that the number of patients admitted to medical facilities has increased by 2.5 folds.  She said, “There are currently 324 patients in the intensive care unit,” she added, “Weekly average mortality rate increased from 13 to 36 .” 

Dr.Lia expressed concerns over the declining usage of face masks. She disclosed that masks usage has declined by 59% in Addis Ababa, the capital city, whereas it declined by 20 % in other cities and towns. She also underscored that social and economic activities have returned to normal despite the alarming increase of positive cases.

In response to questions related to the arrival of the Delta Variant virus in Ethiopia, Dr. Lia said,”The MoH has been working diligently to undertake tests to monitor and to apply appropriate intervention if this particular variant arrives in the country.”  She, however, explained that Ethiopia does not currently have enough reagents and test kits that are designed to test this particular variant. She disclosed that the Ministry of Health is working with various international health organizations to alleviate the shortages of the test kits.

Finally, Dr. Lia Tadesse underlined how high the current prevalence of COVD-19 was getting  and  underscored the importance of  implementing  preventive guidelines and the significance of getting the vaccine. AS

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