COVID-19: Time To Deploy Virtual Technologies



  • DEVCOMS mulls virtual training on risk communication

By Onche Odeh

The lock-down and social distancing that has trailed the global outbreak of COVID-19 may have opened the door of opportunity for nations to leverage on virtual technologies to deploy Telemedicine as a means of accelerating healthcare for their citizens.

Already, calls are mounting for the uptake of Telemedicine as a means of combating the outbreak of COVID-19. With Telemedicine, caregivers could interact with infected persons as it allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients from a distance using telecommunications technology. This ensures that patients are provided with faster and safer access to care. With the proliferation of mobile phones, experts say linking patients and healthcare providers may not be such a big deal as it was in the past.

In Africa, Nigeria may have taken a lead in this regard as the United Bank of Africa (UBA) has announced that it is offering a free telemedicine platform, that is physician-led, to provide direct access to medical advice to citizens, in compliance with social distancing requirements.

In addition to this, the pan-African bank says it will fund a medical centre in Lagos, the state that has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases so far in the country. The medical facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital is fitted with beds for isolation and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

UBA Group Chairman Tony O. Elumelu, in a statement announcing this said, “This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly. As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector has to work hand in hand with various Governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.”

Jimoh, DEVCOMS’ Programme Director

Meanwhile, Development Communications Network (DEVCOMS), a media development and capacity building non-governmental organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria says it has commenced discussion with the Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS) on how to improve risk and health crisis communication in Nigeria using virtual technologies.

Program Director/Executive Director, DEVCOMS, Akin Jimoh who disclosed this to said the aim is to build the capacity of journalists and communicators on risk and health crisis communication using technologies that combine voice, text and video.

“We (DEVCOMS) have started a discussion with the Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS) on the possibility of riding on the exigencies of the current disease outbreaks (COVID-19 and Lassa Fever) to build the capacity of journalists covering health and similar issues on risk communication using virtual technologies,” Jimoh said.

According to him, the training module to be used would help experts and journalists to deepen their understanding of the role of communication in risk prevention and outbreak containment.

“Communication is key to outbreak and risk containment. If journalists understand this, they would be more responsive in making information on risk prevention and management. In Nigeria, the time for this is now that the country is grappling with the global outbreak of COVID-19 and Lassa fever at the local level,” he said.

As at this week, not less than 173 people have reportedly died from Lassa fever in the country. As at March 27, information from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed a total of 65 cases and one death from COVID-19.

A trail of the COVID-19 outbreak shows that telecommunication played a major role in the response it has received so far. At the onset, a top director at Wuhan Central Hospital and a Wuhan doctor reportedly posted information on WeChat, a social media platform, about the new virus. Although they were allegedly reprimanded for this, their action removed the lid on the lethal virus.

As at March 27, not less than 528,025 cases of COVID-19  have been recorded globally in accordance with the applied case definitions and testing strategies in the affected countries have been reported, causing 23,672 deaths.





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