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ECOWAS member states agree to ease COVID-19 restrictions

The Eight meeting of the COVID-19 ministerial Coordinating Committee (MCC) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ended with health ministers agreeing to minimize public health measures taken against the pandemic.

The virtual meeting was to ensure minimal socio-economic distortions across the West African Sub Region in view of the current evolution of the pandemic.

The meeting recommended the wearing of masks in public places in the sub-region but said it was not mandatory.

It agreed that member states should promote and maintain enhanced hand and respiratory hygiene practices, while all social and religious activities should resume at full capacity, provided participants were fully vaccinated.

The meeting also urged Member States to promote the use of Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Tests Ag-RDT for population testing, de-emphasize Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic test and make RDT kits widely available to limit the use of PCR testing at reference centres for the purpose of enhanced surveillance and monitoring of new variants.

The meeting also entreated the Member States to promote vaccination by prioritizing the vulnerable and the population at risk with the view to achieving 70 per cent population coverage by or soon after June 2022.

It said fully vaccinated travellers should be allowed entry without presenting a negative PR test result and should not be tested on arrival, but travellers who are not fully vaccinated would need to provide a negative PC test result of not more than 72 hours and should be offered vaccination on arrival.

The meeting encouraged member states to accelerate compliance with the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State’s directive on harmonized travel including capping of travel-related COVID-19 test fee for ECOWAS citizens at $50 for PC,”

It said RDT should also be not more than $10 when charged.

The ECOWAS region has recorded a total of 835,850 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 11,334 deaths and 817,329 recoveries, as of 03 April 2022.

In the last 5 weeks, the number of confirmed cases and deaths have declined consistently, indicating that the 4th pandemic wave has come to an end.

The meeting noted with satisfaction the diligent efforts of Member States to acquire vaccines from multiple sources, the establishment of a vaccines exchange platform in the region, and progress towards achieving local production of vaccines.

It, however, expressed concern about the low vaccination uptake in the region which stood at about 14 per cent of the population presently.

Source: GNA

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