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Coronavirus – South Sudan: With EU support, WHO enhances standard infection prevention and control practices in laboratories to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in South Sudan

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JUBA, South Sudan, July 30, 2020/ — Over 50 health workers in Juba have been trained this past week with the aim to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in laboratories and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and other infectious diseases.

With funding from the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the South Sudan Ministry of Health has trained laboratory experts on principles of COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in the laboratory. The training emphasized imparting competencies on universal precautions and safe handling, segregation, disinfection and disposal of infectious and hazardous laboratory waste. The trainees were also oriented on the current WHO IPC guidelines for managing COVID-19 samples in the laboratory.

To apply the knowledge and skills acquired, participants conducted a desk review to identify gaps and develop action plans to improve IPC practices in their respective laboratories.

“COVID-19 is a new disease and there are newly emerging facts”, said Mr Abe Gordon Abias, Laboratory Scientist and Epidemiologist at the National Public Health Laboratory, Ministry of Health. “Therefore, laboratories should adhere to the guidance provided by WHO and CDC”.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared in South Sudan, surge laboratory personnel have been engaged to support the additional testing needs in the National Public Health Laboratory. With the increase in the number of personnel and samples to be tested, the transmission risk level also increases. It was therefore vital to strengthen the skills and knowledge of health workers to reduce the risk of laboratory acquired infection.

“COVID-19 samples collected for laboratory investigation should be handled as potentially infectious”, said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan. “Hence enhancing the knowledge of health workers who collect, or transport and test COVID-19 samples will minimize the possibility of exposure”.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 118 health workers have been infected in South Sudan. Training of health workers on IPC and providing the required personal protective equipment and administrative controls are critical for mitigating the risk of infection in health facility and laboratory settings.

WHO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Health as part of the ongoing national efforts to build and strengthen the capacity of laboratories to test and report results in a safe, secure, timely and reliable manner for outbreaks and other health emergencies.

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