Full extent of COVID-19 is not yet known in Africa – says Dr. Maryse Simonet

Physician and public health consultant, Dr. Maryse Simonet said “not many African countries are without impact, but the full extent is not yet known. Most of the cases and the responses have remained in capital cities, yet rapid tests are now coming to rural settings.”

Dr. Maryse Simonet, MD, MPH ’93, MSc ’03

Dr. Maryse Simonet works with Expertise France, a technical assistance agency operator of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to support coordinated and informed coronavirus responses in Guinea and other sub-Saharan nations. 

“The onset of COVID-19 required us to adapt our technical assistance activities, in terms of preserving essential health services and responding to the additional needs arising out of this pandemic,” she said, adding that In a lot of African countries, teleworking is only available to an elite minority. 

She said people need to maintain informal activities and businesses to survive.

“Like France, Guinea has used hotels to isolate asymptomatic people, but until recently only in the capital. Now Guinea is experimenting with mandated institutional confinement throughout the country, although this may cause objections to testing.”

She also noted that Ebola helped develop and strengthen health security in most countries and through regional and sub-regional organizations.

“This created an advantage in reacting to COVID-19. However, the transmission is much faster and invisible with COVID. A “copy-paste” response, from the Ebola experience or from Western world strategies, is inadequate,”

She also noted that efforts must go beyond finding cases and treating them; there’s a need to focus on anticipating and preventing the spread. “There’s a need to support African health authorities in documenting and implementing creative solutions, rooted in context—including gender sensitive approaches.”

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