COVID-19 is affecting countries around the world, with terrible consequences in terms of loss of life and livelihoods. But it is in developing countries, where health systems are often weak and lack resources, that the effects will be felt particularly harshly.
That is why the EU is mobilising a wide-ranging package of resources and programmes to tackle the effects of the pandemic. Amongst these, are EU-funded plans for the use of mobile labs in Africa.
When putting together this emergency response plan, the EU was able to build on its previous work using mobile labs during the Ebola crisis in Africa. The EU had acquired three mobile labs designed for the diagnosis of highly dangerous pathogens, as well as for training health workers. These were then deployed during the Ebola crisis. One mobile lab deployed in Guinea, for example, tested thousands of samples providing vital support to the local health system.
Mobile labs are particularly useful in responding to epidemics such as COVID-19, because they can be mobilised quickly, can provide a flexible response which responds to local needs, and are cost-effective to deploy. They can also be easily integrated into local and regional systems, as is the case here with the network of African and Pasteur institutes.
The EU has now announced a plan to use mobile labs to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis. This involves adapting the activities of the EU-funded Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative, and activating this network to adopt mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus.
This plan will make a real difference on the ground to those who need it most.
A €5 million boost to the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, will enable it to provide expert training, rapid diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance, as well as to build an African reference centre for epidemiological training. This includes the use of the EU-funded mobile lab that was deployed during the Ebola crisis.
A further €5 Million has been provided for the development of rapid and mobile diagnostic labs in the field, with a fleet of 5 vehicles foreseen.
On top of this, the EU is also using the existing network under the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative to adopt mitigation measures against COVID-19. For example, under one existing project, the EU deployed a mobile lab for interventions on viral outbreak sites in combination with capacity building in Western Africa.
These examples are just some of the ways in which the EU is using innovative approaches and technology to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis and support African countries during this pandemic. These mobile labs will enable both medical services to reach parts of the population which the normal health system would struggle to, for example in remote areas, as well as to build up a network of trained staff.
Of course, the EU’s response goes far beyond simply the use of mobile labs. The EU has announced a major package of support to assist partner countries with both the health and socio-economic challenges resulting from this crisis.