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Contribution to the COVID-19 response

Collage of images from ZIG support measures and EM image SARS-CoV-2. Source: Robert Koch Institute

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centre for International Health Protection (ZIG) has been actively supporting crisis response at national and international level.

The national support activities of ZIG focus on the collection and evaluation of international data. Analysing the outbreak development worldwide and in selected countries as well as the assessment of response strategies of other countries are helpful in crisis management in Germany.

ZIG’s COVID-19 support activities at the international level started at the same time. Already since the end of January 2020, diagnostic reagents and laboratory materials have been shipped to partner countries, mainly in Africa. In cooperation with the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention a virtual diagnostic training course for African and Eastern Mediterranean states has been developed in various languages and is being implemented. In February 2020, ZIG colleagues were involved in on-site diagnostic trainings in Rwanda (in cooperation with the GHPP project EFFO) and Namibia (in the context of a SEEG mission).

ZIG colleagues were also involved in on-site missions to support the WHO within the framework of GOARN:

  • Philippines, WHO regional office: support of data management for COVID-19 outbreak control from February to March 2020.  
  • Iran: participation in a mission to Iran in March 2020 of high-level international representatives led by WHO.

The RKI is a valued partner for public health institutions worldwide when it comes to the exchange of experience regarding the management of the COVID-19 outbreak. In this context, ZIG is regularly in contact with health ministries and public health institutions in numerous countries via telephone and video conferences.

The global health projects coordinated at RKI use their resources and personnel in partner countries to prepare for and support outbreak response. Public health capacities that have been built up in recent years are making a visible contribution in many places to a more timely and successful crisis management. In addition to strengthening diagnostics, this primarily focuses on improved infection prevention and control.


  • The deployment handbook

The deployment handbook: “In Control? - A practical guide for experts working in health emergencies in international settings” will serve as a reference and a tool to assist readers to quickly grasp the colourful organisational, legal and operational landscape when responding to health emergencies abroad, such as COVID-19. Published in a handy format and as an e-book, it will provide hands-on information and practical advice for everyday life and work in international environments, collating key information written by subject matter experts in a single tool.

This book will be an adapted version of In Control: A practical guide for civilian experts working in crisis management missions:

Contact: Silva Lauffer, ZIG3

  • Risk communication and community engagement

The project "Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) during the COVID-19 outbreak: a multi-site international study" analyses which strategies are used during the COVID-19 pandemic to communicate risks and to involve citizens in controlling the pandemic outbreak and protecting the population. The study focuses on the development and implementation of communication and participation strategies. Furthermore, the study will evaluate the effectiveness of such strategies.

Communication and participation strategies will be examined in three national contexts (Germany, Nigeria and Guinea). In particular, the importance of communication with and participation of vulnerable and hard-to-reach population groups (e.g. refugees, migrant workers) will be highlighted. Data will be collected through literature research, surveys, interviews with key persons and focus group discussions. Theories of communication sciences, anthropology and political science underlie the conception and analysis of the project.

The study, led by the RKI’s Centre for International Health Protection, provides information on how risk communication and community engagement help to manage a pandemic and thus help to limit the spread of a pathogen in the population. The results may help to improve communication and community engagement in future pandemics. The study protocol is currently being developed. First results of the interdisciplinary research project will be available in autumn 2020.

Contact: Dr. Charbel El Bcheraoui, ZIG 2

  • Go.Data

Go.Data is field data collection platform designed by WHO with focus on contact data collection, contact follow-up and chains of transmission. Data can be presented in forms of lists, graphs and operational dashboards. Go.Data offers different types of operation (online, offline) and functions on different operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac), in addition to an optional mobile app. The tool is designed for flexibility in the field and highly configurable with extensive data export and import features. It can be used to manage multiple outbreaks at the same time and adapted to a wide range of outbreak scenarios. Go.Data is free, open-source and multi-lingual.

RKI as WHO Collaboration Centre for the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) supports high-priority countries in outbreak response including training , implementation and monitoring of Go.Data.

Contact: Dr. Basel Karo, ZIG1

Date: 11.06.2020