MSF has started an intervention for the outbreak of COVID-19
Coronavirus disease COVID-19

Providing materials, engaging communities in the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

Specialised medical protective equipment from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is on its way to Wuhan Jinyintan hospital in the capital city of Hubei province, China, the epicentre of the current coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

“As of 14 February, there are more than 64,000 COVID-19 cases, 99 per cent of which are in China,” says Gert Verdonck, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator for COVID-19. “Medical protective equipment is key. So, we want to contribute to supporting frontline health workers with the specialised protection they need to work safely in an outbreak of this magnitude.”

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MSF's response to COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong

MSF sending supplies to China, engaging communities in Hong Kong

Weighing 3.5 tonnes, these supplies are being dispatched from MSF Supply in Brussels, Belgium through the Hubei Charity Federation, to reach Wuhan Jinyintan hospital, one of the hospitals on the forefront of treating patients with COVID-19.

An MSF team in Hong Kong opened a project at the end of January focusing on health education for vulnerable people. Community engagement is a crucial activity of any outbreak response and in Hong Kong, this focuses on groups who are less likely to have access to important medical information, such as the socio-economically disadvantaged.

Our teams have already conducted face-to-face sessions with street cleaners, refugees and asylum seekers and the visually impaired in recent weeks. Karin Huster, MSF project coordinator, Hong Kong
MSF has started an intervention for the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19
May Chan (in red), a street cleaner in Hong Kong, attends the MSF health promotion session on novel coronavirus. She believes the proper application of infection prevention measures can keep her stay healthy. Hong Kong, February 2020.
Shuk Lim Cheung/MSF

“It is the first time to learn that if I cough without tissue, I should cough into my elbow but not my hands. This helps keep my hands clean and I think it is important for a cleaner to know that,” says May Chan.

 

The team is also targeting those who are more vulnerable to developing severe disease if they are infected, such as the elderly.

“Our teams have already conducted face-to-face sessions with street cleaners, refugees and asylum seekers and the visually impaired in recent weeks,” says Karin Huster, who is in charge of MSF’s project in Hong Kong. “We share up-to-date, evidence-based medical information, but perhaps even more crucially, we’re there to listen and answer the many questions that this new disease has generated.

“Fear can often spread faster than a virus, so helping people manage their stress and anxiety is a key focus for us.”

MSF donates equipment, prepares to support and respond across Asia

In addition, MSF is sending a donation of one tonne of personal protective equipment to the Hong Kong St John Ambulance service to help them carry over until their stocks can be replenished. The staff are transporting high-risk patients, and therefore, it is important to ensure that they have the specialised protection they need to work safely.

We want to contribute to supporting frontline health workers with the specialised protection they need to work safely in an outbreak of this magnitude. Gert Verdonck, MSF Emergency Coordinator for COVID-19

Further afield, in other countries where MSF is working, teams are preparing in case of an outbreak of COVID-19. In several countries, predominantly in south and southeast Asia, MSF is in contact with the health authorities and offering support should it be needed.

This includes training of health workers on infection prevention and control measures and health education for vulnerable and at-risk groups, similar to MSF’s activities in 2003 during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), caused by a related type of coronavirus.

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