Jun 20 , 2020

The government has loosened the chains around the state of emergency decree, allowing funerals to take place with the presence of families and cutting the mandatory quarantine period by half for those arriving in the country. The adjustments were made even while Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections continue to proliferate.

The Ministry of Health sent a letter to the Office of the Attorney-General with a list of articles to be revised in order to reduce the pressure on medical centres that are critical to containing the outbreak.

The revised directive has kept intact the number of people allowed to attend a funeral to 50; but after the death of a person, family members are required to notify Ederor weredahealth centres and hand over a sample. Then family members can go ahead and hold a funeral ceremony without waiting for the results of the sample. But the government will continue to hold burial ceremonies for the death of those without family members.

"However, family members are required to take all the necessary prevention methods through the process of burial," said Seharela Abdullahi, state minister for Heath.

Previously, family members of the deceased had to wait for the results of the sample, which has resulted in keeping the body at home for more days due to the limited capacity of laboratories. And the burial process was attended by the presence of security forces.

With the increasing number of positive autopsy reports, the government had assigned one laboratory in the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) to handle the samples from deceased bodies.

"This has increased the burden on the laboratory, leading to psychological crises among family members who have been forced to hold onto the bodies of their deceased relatives," she added.

Travellers who can produce a negative test certificate that was secured three days ahead of arriving in Ethiopia will be discharged to their respective homes for self-quarantine for 14 days. However, anyone with a positive test certificate won't be allowed to enter the country and will be directed to return to their country directly.

In the case of people arriving in Ethiopia without any proof of a medical test, they must provide a sample for testing purposes and receive a response within three days.

If the sample is found to be negative, they must spend seven days in a quarantine centre and once released will be advised to maintain strict self-isolation for seven days and follow the advice of health professionals.

If the sample shows a positive result and the individual is asymptomatic, then the patient will be directed to one of the universities or schools being used as isolation centres and will receive the necessary care, as opposed to the previous arrangement which required that they be sent to treatment centres.

The government will advise on the procedure of self-quarantine upon the discharging of entrants and will sign a document of accountability. The prior procedure used to require that everyone entering the country remain in the allotted quarantine centres for 14 days.

"There will be a close daily follow-up with the discharged entrants," said Seharela. "People must understand the magnitude of the issue and be held accountable."

If anyone is found violating the mandatory self-quarantine at their respective homes they will be subjected to a punishment stipulated under the state of emergency decree.

Currently, the country is conducting 5,000 tests every day and has the capacity to run 7,500. There are 26 fully functioning laboratories, and 20 more laboratories are currently in the pipeline and wrapping up preparations. In the capital, there are six quarantine centres, close to seven isolation centres and four treatment centres.

On June 20, 2020, out of 4,848 laboratory tests, 399 cases were confirmed positive, pushing the total confirmed number of cases in the country to 4,469. So far, 1,122 people have recovered.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 20,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1051]

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