The 7th African Conference on OneHealth and BioSecurity, anchored by the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium ‘GET’ was officially declared open by the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday in Lagos, Nigeria.
The conference is coming amidst the global emergency on Covid19 with the theme: Universal Approach to Addressing BioSecurity Threats:Genomic Intelligence and Vaccines. The conference is focused on understanding and evaluating the opportunities for genomic research and pandemic preparedness to help African countries address public health issues and biosecurity shocks.
This is coming as the COVID19 pandemic has thrown up deficiencies in public health systems structures in Africa, emergency preparedness and citizen communication in public health advocacy, production, treatment and vaccine hesitancy.
Declaring the conference open, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Sanwo-Olu, disclosed that the Covid19 coronavirus pandemic was a war without borders against the human race which brought countries and governments to their knees all over the world.
Lagos State was positioned to withstand the Covid19 pandemic due to the reduction in bureaucratic bottlenecks and a willingness to ensure that both human and material resources were deployed immediately, constantly and proactively to stem the various covid19 infectious waves; lessons that were learnt during the Ebola crisis of 2014.
Mr Sanwo-Olu spoke on how the state’s cabinet was reduced to an eight man emergency body that were empowered to undertake all necessary interventions and activities to ensure that the state was not overwhelmed by Covid-19. According to the Governor, provision of health infrastructure and education were ramped up to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic threats; with over 2000 healthcare personnel trained, cold chain infrastructure deployed and the financial resources to ensure delays are reduced to the barest minimum.
But the governor, as the Lagos State Covid19 incidence commander couldn’t have done this alone, as he acknowledged while applauding the Covid-19 incidence team that includes the Commissioner of Health, Prof Akin Abayomi who supervises the team; which includes medical doctors, health experts and civil society organizations.
Prof Abayomi, chief host of the GET summit reiterated that Lagos State was positioned to take the lead in tackling the Covid19 pandemic as the State already had an agenda titled ‘THEMES’, a workplan of the governor to aid in ensuring developmental outcomes for Lagos State.
Prof Abayomi while enumerating the efforts of the state, noted that global health challenges have been increasingly exacerbated by the ease of movement, also noting that climate change and environmental degradation spurred by massive rural migration to urban areas is also a factor.
Sounding a note of warning, the commissioner disclosed that Lagos State was not yet out of the woods as a fourth wave of the pandemic was expected; due to the forthcoming end of year celebrations. Prof Abayomi however stated that the state had put in place structures to flatten the curve, which is ensuring that the wave did not have the optimum conditions to thrive, mutate or spread; at least from Lagos State.
Such structures include the establishment of the Lagos Biobank, the largest structure of its kind in Africa; the construction of a level 2 and 3 biosecurity laboratory and inclusion of monitoring officers as well as civil society organizations to ensure that all health maintenance processes were complied with; at all levels of intervention and even at the most remote areas of Lagos State.
Commending the Governor and the Commissioner for their prompt and impactful response to tackling the spread of the virus, Prof. Christian Happi, a guest speaker revealed that the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) was established to provide Africa with the necessary knowledge and research intelligence to address the problems of infectious diseases. Prof. Happi noted that despite the human resources available, Africa still labours under a huge gap in research of genomics and bio-informatics which are critical to addressing infectious diseases.
The first day ended on a high note with presentations by various experts including the Nigerian Navy (NN), the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Africa CDC, Environmentalists, Civil Society and Media.