The world is facing an unprecedented crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic with many unknowns, which has led to much confusion and anxiety. Public health measures have for centuries been the cornerstone of the response to epidemics. Among them, physical distancing measures aim to reduce contact between infected and uninfected people. As part of the global COVID-19 response, they have been widely used to slow down the spread of the virus in several countries. Despite their overall acceptance, they have been poorly documented, particularly in Africa, and debates persist on their appropriateness and practicality in the context of low-income countries. This article describes the implementation of these measures in four West-African countries—Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Guinea—and discusses people’s willingness to comply with them. We describe these measures and discuss the importance of considering the socio-cultural, economic and political context to choose the most appropriate and effective measures and propose ways to explore strategies that are potentially better adapted to the African context.

To investigate SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) infection and exposure risks among grocery retail workers, and to investigate their mental health state during the pandemic, this cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2020 in a single grocery retail store in Massachusetts, USA. Among 104 workers tested, 21 (20%) had positive viral assays. Seventy-six percent of positive cases were asymptomatic. After multi-variate adjustments, employees with direct customer exposure had an odds of 4.7 (95% CI 1.2 to 32.0) being tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, while smokers had an odds of 0.1 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.8) having positive assay. As to mental health, the prevalence of anxiety and depression was 24% and 8%, respectively. Employees with direct costumer exposure were 5 times more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

This commentary highlights the challenges for pharmacovigilance (PV) posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and how PV practitioners in Africa can use this opportunity to strengthen patient safety. The commentary discusses remedies that lack clinical evidence and are potentially dangerous and the hidden effects of irrational use of medicines and medical products. It also examines the increase in poor reporting of adverse effects as well as the weakening of PV systems. It concludes that drug safety practitioners need to be vigilant about these risks and strengthen reporting systems to document, characterize, communicate, and minimize the risks of such remedies.

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