COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF INSECT PHYSIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) OUTBREAK.
The icipe family, alongside the rest of the world, continues to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. The Centre recognises the emerging and evolving nature of this threat, as well as its sweeping and sheer magnitude on just every sphere of society, right down to individual level.
We believe that events of this kind mandate us to play our personal roles while also acting collectively; to be cautious, but also resilient and determined; and to counterbalance vulnerability with courage. In particular, at icipe, this has been a time to remind ourselves of our place as workers in the frontline of poverty alleviation. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic finds us stark in the middle of contributing to the battle against the desert locust devastating many parts of eastern Africa since the beginning of 2020; and the fall armyworm that arrived a few short years before it. That, alongside efforts to tackle a number of other menaces facing the continent that are within our mandate.
And based on this consciousness, our response to the COVID-19 situation has been purposeful; envisioned to safeguard our staff and their families, as well as our visitors, while minimising disruptions on commitments to our stakeholders, including our development partners, donors, collaborators and beneficiaries.
In accordance, icipe has aimed to develop a package of measures around COVID-19, informed by the best and latest evidence. Towards this goal, the Management has remained vigilant and proactive. We have tapped into the Centre networks; paid heed to host governments directives; and amalgamated information from international organisations, scientific literature, and the media. Since January 2020, we have maintained a consistent flow of information to staff along the following objectives:
- Provide basic understanding of COVID-19;
- Encourage and facilitate intentional preventative actions;
- Create awareness and assurance, and enhance preparedness;
- Build an atmosphere of solidarity, support, hope and purpose;
- Emphasise the importance of staff to follow country-specific directives issued by authorities and local health officials.
Dissemination of basic information on coronavirus to staff have been continually directed to useful online links and literature to update themselves. The aim has been to make teams alert, not just to the facts about the disease, but also to scientific progress being made to find solutions to it.
In response to the declaration of coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in February, icipe developed an initial contingency plan, creating a reasonable level of preparedness across the Centre’s campuses. As the situation has evolved, this plan has been upgraded accordingly, leading to the measures outlined below.
COVID-19 MEASURES CURRENTLY IN PLACE AT icipe
Hygienic procedures have been promoted consistently, including the need for regular and proper hand washing with soap, or using alcohol-based sanitizers installed in central locations across the Centre’s campuses.
Awareness raising of other “barrier gestures”, for example, keeping hands away from the face; avoiding handshaking, hugging and kissing, and close contact with people who have ﬂu-like symptoms; covering nose and mouth with tissue, or coughing and sneezing into one’s ﬂexed elbow; and staying at home, avoiding interaction with others, and seeking medical help in case of symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Preparations for evacuation of staff members who become unwell on-duty to appropriately equipped and prepared hospitals.
Social distancing, including flexible (remote) work arrangements, where roles allow, with appropriate provisions to ensure continuity of work.
Restriction of events, meetings and other gatherings, except when absolutely necessary. In the latter case, meetings rooms must be cleaned before and after, and sitting placements should allow safe distance between participants.
Reinforcing of cleaning protocols, including periodic de-contamination of high-risk areas within the Centre, like entrances and washrooms; diligence of cleaning teams, for example by sanitizing themselves in between locations and wearing masks as they perform their tasks. Cleaning has also been rationalised in favour of spaces that require more frequent attention.
Re-stocking and replenishing of vital items like masks, gloves, and disinfectants.
Training of staff especially those involved in cleaning and decontamination.
Instalment of TVs at multiple locations on campus with videos on how to wash hands properly and on how to decontaminate surfaces including tables, light switches, stair rails, door handles, etc
Switch to cashless modes of payments, preferably mobile money.
Enhanced catering procedures, including protection kits for food service staff; constant disinfection around service areas and dining tables; self-clearance and designated areas for used crockery/cutlery, and clearly marked dustbins for disposable items. As of March 18th the Centre’s cafeterias and guest centres have been closed.
Pre-empting the need to touch the handles by keeping doors to washrooms, offices and other constantly used areas open.
Revision of security checks at entrances to eliminate physical contact, while not compromising safety.
Suspension of travel to countries that have a level 3 travel health notice; while invitation of visitors from such countries is discouraged. Non-essential travel to other countries with reported cases of coronavirus for events expected to have large gatherings of people has also been restrained. International visitors to the Centre and its campuses from such countries are asked to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of their arrival.
Additional requirements for self-quarantine as follows: as events have an unfolded, more stringent requirements for those travelling have been enacted. As a result any staff who a) is returning from a country with reported coronavirus cases; or b) has had contact with someone who has been in such a location recently; or c) has had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus; is required to report the incident and self-quarantine for a period of at least 14 days from the time they return, or from when they became aware of, or suspect the diagnosis.
Household preparedness and safety recommendations, for example through development of household plans informed by respective needs and daily routine, as well as community collective COVID-19 preventive measures. The plans should include emergency contacts of friends, family and medical services, and should be designed towards strategic, rather than panic buying of food supplies and other necessities.
The most significant decision that we have taken in light of COVID-19, is the postponement of the icipe@50 main ceremony. Previously scheduled for 3 April 2020, this has been postponed to 20 November 2020. The 50th anniversary is a major milestone for icipe and through our website (www.icipe.org), and social media pages, we will continue to share information on other planned activities taking place during the year. In due course, we will send you special publication marking this landmark.
We hope to be able to hold the icipe@50 ceremony as rescheduled. Indeed, we move forward with the aspiration that the current danger will pass, and that we will all prevail. Our confidence would be impossible without the unwavering support, empathy and flexibility of our donors and partners; factors that have allowed us to meet our obligations as best as possible amidst existing circumstances. We express our utmost gratitude to you all and look forward to better times.
Segenet Kelemu, PhD
Director General & CEO