Rapid assistance during the pandemic: ‘We’re working flat out’

Ebola, the Zika virus and now Covid-19: the Epidemic Preparedness Team assists countries during epidemics – and is more in demand than ever.

‘The number of requests we’re receiving is absolutely unprecedented. We’re working flat out,’ says microbiologist Michael Nagel, describing the current situation for him and his colleagues in the Epidemic Preparedness Team (also known by its German acronym, SEEG). Since 2015, the team has been helping German development cooperation countries to more rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease. The emergence of the novel coronavirus disease Covid-19 has underscored the importance of the Epidemic Preparedness Team’s work, as Nagel reports in an interview with akzente, GIZ’s client magazine.

The Epidemic Preparedness Team was founded on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) and the German Health Ministry (BMG) as a response to the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa. The core team based at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH monitors outbreaks of infectious diseases throughout the world. In cooperation with the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the team is able to respond to outbreaks rapidly and flexibly. It has already assisted around 15 countries on more than 20 assignments.  

Now, the experts are helping developing and emerging-market countries to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. In early March, a group travelled to Namibia to establish laboratory diagnostics for Covid-19 at the national reference laboratory, focusing in particular on training staff in the use of tests. The team has also completed another assignment in Benin.

Read the interview with Michael Nagel in akzente to learn more about the Epidemic Preparedness Team’s assignments in our partner countries and how the experts are managing to do their work despite travel restrictions.

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