It was not that long ago when WhatsApp groups and Twitter feeds were awash with theories that Africa and Africans are generally immune to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
As the rest of the world tried and failed to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus, there were those who thought they were invincible because of the colour of their skin.
But a whole lot has changed, especially in the last two weeks. Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have now surged to well over 1,400 and there have been a good number fatalities among the locals. Some African countries have even announced full lockdowns.
Although African governments have generally put restrictions on travel and public gatherings to contain the virus, while also trying to sensitize and inform the public, one East African country has gone a step further in the fight against COVID-19.
That would be the largest economy in the sub-region, Kenya, which is resorting to telemedicine to get ahead of COVID-19.
On Sunday, March 22, Kenya announced that a telemedicine centre had been set up at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in an effort aimed at enhancing the country’s COVID-19 handling capabilities.
Today we have the seen reality of #COVID-19 CT Scans from @KenyaGovernors 47 Counties can be interpreted live at the New state of the art @KNH_hospital Diagnostic Imaging Centre, through the use of #Technology and read by Doctors across the 🌍#KomeshaCoroan@WHOKenya pic.twitter.com/6tcKctKFSu
— Ministry of Health (@MOH_Kenya) March 22, 2020
Telemedicine (also known as Telehealth) is being leaned upon in parts of the globe to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It entails the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies.
Telemedicine allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.
And Kenya appears to be getting in on the act in the hopes of enhancing their capacity to battle a viral infection that has caused more than 17,000 deaths and over 390,000 infections across 170+ countries.
According to the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the telehealth (CT Scan) centre is the first of its kind in Africa and it will help in detecting COVID-19 in three to five minutes.
Kagwe who was speaking during the launch of the facility on Sunday said that apart from testing, the facility will also handle a 24-hour service that will coordinate results from all the 47 counties in Kenya.
“Through this technology, instead of sending a radiologist to every county, CT scans from those counties can just be interpreted from here,” said Kagwe.
With telehealth technology, Kenya is witnessing the reality of summoning COVID-19 CT Scan data from all 47 counties, which is then interpreted live at the new state-of-the-art Diagnostic Imaging Centre situated at KNH.
The COVID-19 CT Scan data is actually read and interpreted by doctors across the globe through the use of telemedicine technology.
Kenya, like many other African countries, is bracing for “the worst,” as the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised a few days ago. Although no fatalities have been recorded in Kenya, confirmed cases have risen to 15 as of yesterday.
Besides restrictions on travel and public gatherings, schools have had to shut down, entertainment spots like clubs, bars, and restaurants, have been advised to review their operation time and public service vehicles now carry only a few passengers.