First cases of Corona in Sudan

The Covid19 pandemic has also reached the African continent. In an interview, Dr. Mohammed Hassan, who lives and works as a doctor in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, explains how people there are preparing for the crisis.

Also in Khartoum, curfews will be in place in all public places from 20h onwards.
Photo: Dave Schmidtke

Are already any corona infected people in Sudan?

Currently there are 3 confirmed cases. The first passed away and the other two are are under isolation. The three cases came from outside Sudan.

There is a strong connection, exchange between chinese economy and Sudan. Are in this days stronger regulations for working people from China?

True, the relationship with China is strong and vital to our economy. However, like many other countries, special precautions were made regarding passengers coming from all endemic areas. Such measures include medical screening and isolation. Yet, the biggest concern is from neighboring Egypt, as it has shown to be a spread point for the infection in past weeks, not to mention the rising reported cases on daily basis. The airport is closed for all international flights, as well the land borders, with special measures for travelers and trades that came by land from Egypt including a mandatory quarantine.

With how many infected people could Sudan deal?

The capital Khartoum has a maximum of 200 to 250 ICU beds, and approximately a maximum of 500 ventilators, that is if we are being optimistic! Compared to New York which has a total of 7,000 ventilators, the numbers alone can give you an idea of how fragile the situation is

The health sector is very fragile, and outdated in my country, and is the major reason for doctors being in the frontlines of the last revolts that ousted Al-Bashir last April 2019.

What kind of consequences do you fear during an pandemic outbreak of the virus in Sudan?

If well developed countries like Italy suffered a health system failure fighting covid 19, the results would be devastating in a country without an effective health system to start with. Frankly the impact of the outbreak would be heavy on the whole region, 3rd world countries and the Middle East. The virus has proven to be a challenge not only to first world countries, but humanity as a whole.

How do you prepare in Sudan right now? Is gathering in big crowds already forbidden?

Hence our best way to fight covid 19, is preventing an outbreak to begin with. An awareness campaign through all media outlets has been In effect for a while now carrying the same message of The WHO; social distancing, hand hygiene and other infection control measures

The testing is mainly in Khartoum and Port Sudan ( a city up north east, with the major international naval port)

A curfew is applied in all major cities from 8:00 pm to 6:00am. Schools and universities are closed for a month. All who can work from home are asked to do so. Definitely the streets and markets are quieter than they used to be, but still more efforts can be done.

Is there an individual strategy you are working on?

Despite the weak resources, local medical teams have gathered and put in affect a plan to, screen, isolate and treat infected cases with the aid of the WHO and other NGO’s. The plan is ideal for countries with low economic status and health resources. Most Health workers are aware of all the points mentioned above and are acting professionally and synergistically.

Dr. Mohamed Hassan, together with a crisis team of doctors, is trying to prepare Sudan for the crisis.
Photo: Dave Schmidtke

We have screening areas allocated in all major hospitals, as well isolation centers ready to receive suspected cases. Employees are being trained on using PPE (personal protective equipment) and handling infected patients safely. Doctors are up to date with the medical treatment and protocols for covid 19, and training is being provided to most medical personnel on daily basis since the outbreak. Still the issue of resources remain,including masks, gloves and antiseptics. This too, has become an international crisis. I trust my teammates, but can I trust the system!?

Is it true that (because of dry air and the heat in Sudan) there could be good chances the spread of the virus could be contained?

Regarding heat, humidity and transmission of covid 19, no strong evidence is available yet to comment however some studies are pointing that heat might have an effect. Since no scientific committee has declared it, it remains a theory.

Does Sudan need external help to fight covid-19?

Yes. Financial and logistic.

How do politicians and and the public see this today?

Due to the massive death toll in Italy, and now Spain and France, everyone with access to any media outlet knows how serious the novel corona virus infection is. Even people who took this disease lightly are coming around and acknowledging its burden.

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