The SADC Committee of Ministers of Health has recommended that modern technology such as video-conferences, Webinars and Skype calls continue to be used when conducting meetings until the COVID-19 situation has been contained in the Region.
This position was endorsed by the Council of Ministers which met on 12th March 2021 and directed the Expanded Technical Committee for Coordinating and Monitoring the Implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health to continue monitoring the COVID-19 situation and provide timely advice, analyse the current COVID-19 situation in the African context and provide home-grown solutions.
The virtual meeting discussed policies, strategies and programmes geared towards consolidating SADC regional integration in fulfilment of Council’s mandate as spelt out in Article 11 of the SADC Treaty. Honourable Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Mozambique, chaired the meeting in her capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers.
SADC put on hold the hosting of regional face-to-face meetings in March 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and instead recommended convening of virtual meetings .
The Council of Ministers observed during its meeting that the COVID-19 situation in the SADC Region has been gradually deteriorating since September 2020 and that the numbers of cases and deaths have exponentially increased in all Member States.
Across the Region, the case per 100,000 population has doubled since September 2020, while some countries have reported four to five-fold increase in cases. The Council of Ministers noted that in the third quarter of 2020, the epidemic curve had started to flatten in many countries, following which some social measures were eased and others completely lifted. This phase did not last long before the second wave of the outbreak occurred.
Despite all the public health and social measures implemented by Member States to fight the pandemic, a strong resurgence of cases that emerged at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2020 has continued to spread relentlessly in all Member States.
In January 2021 most SADC Member States reported a sustained increase in new cases of more than 10% and there was concern among public health experts that the surge of infections was being driven, in part, by new strains of the corona virus, which are reported to be transmitted more easily than the previous ones. These variants are rapidly becoming dominant in many parts of the world, replacing other versions of the virus.
Most SADC Member States have also reported an increase in hospitalisations and demand for intensive care services from COVID-19 patients. The increased fatality in this wave of the outbreak also shows how overwhelmed care facilities have become in dealing with this pandemic.