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31 January, 2020

Tanzania civil aviation stakeholders and health experts, on 31 January 2020 held an emergency meeting to devise strategies for prevention of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, which has been declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The meeting, which was held at Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) Headquarters in Dar es Salaam, brought together members of the national Collaborative Arrangement for Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA), comprising of air operators, including locally and foreign registered airlines, airport operators (Tanzania Airports Authority – TAA, Zanzibar Airports Authority – ZAA and Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company Limited – KADCO), public health experts, civil aviation security service providers, customs, immigration and ground handling service providers.

Speaking at the meeting, the Director General of Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (the Authority), Mr. Hamza S. Johari, alluded that the coronavirus spread very fast through the aviation system and therefore called upon stakeholders to work together collaboratively and cooperatively as the CAPSCA initiative suggests so as to ensure that adequate measures are in place in the bid for preparedness of this pandemic and other communicable diseases  in the country. The Director General underscored that it is the duty of all the stakeholders to ensure that we prevent entry into our country and spread of the coronavirus.

“While there is no case in the country reported as recently put clear by the Hon. Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (HCDGEC), civil aviation stakeholders should not just sit and relax, rather we should all remain vigilant all the time while enhancing the required measures at the airports for the preparedness”, said the Director General. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has called upon its member States to take appropriate measures to prevent and combat the pandemic.

He added that Tanzania, as a member State of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), through the Authority, experts from public health and other CAPSCA stakeholders has since the year 2014 developed a plan for aviation prevention and combating of communicable diseases that can be spread through civil aviation. Subsequently, the three (3) international airports in the United Republic of Tanzania, i.e. Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA), Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (AAKIA) have developed and tested their respective airport contingency plans, with the public health component included, at the table top level. He revealed that while KADCO have done a test for its emergency plan at the full-scale level as well, JNIA and AAKIA have plans to undertake the exercise in the near future to fully test their respective plans. Mr. Johari urged the two airports to expedite the full-scale exercises so as to identify the gaps of the plans, if any.

The Director General also pointed out that the Authority, in collaboration with experts from public health, is undertaking mock assessment at the three international airports, Mwanza and Songwe airports on compliance of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR 2005) under the WHO project. This is in preparation for the WHO assessment for airport designation.

Mr. Johari indicated that the mock assessment was undertaken in 2016 and the results ranged between 70% and 81% (international airports) and 40% - 60% (Mwanza and Songwe airports). The WHO pass mark for airport designation is 80%. This means, the airports need some improvements to be able to achieve the minimum score of 80% of the mock assessment and thereafter, we shall have a confidence to invite WHO for the actual assessment for the airport designation, especially the international ones. The objective of the airport designation is to communicate to the travelling world our airports’ readiness to handle health-related matters and this gives a confidence to airlines and travelers.

The Assistant Director Environmental Health Services from the Ministry of HCDGEC, Dr. Khalid Massa said, “early detection is quite crucial in prevention of the virus importation, as most cases of viruses are detected at airports”. Missing a point at an airport during surveillance may pave a way to possible spreading of communicable diseases in communities where pharmaceutical processes may not as easily deployed as at airports.

According to WHO, the risk of importation of the diseases may be reduced if temperature screening at the entry is associated with early detection of symptomatic passengers and their referral for medical follow-ups. Most of the export virus cases have been detected through entry screening. The main clinical signs and symptoms reported for the outbreak includes fever, vomiting and difficulty in breathing.