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SEEG mission to strengthen SARS CoV-2 diagnostic capacity and implementing quality assurance in Uzbekistan (20 to 30 September 2021)

Laboratory training for quality assurance in Tashkent. Preparation of external SARS-CoV-2 positive controls © GIZLaboratory training for quality assurance in Tashkent. Preparation of external SARS-CoV-2 positive controls © GIZ

In March 2020, the first COVID-19 case was reported from Uzbekistan. According to official WHO data, 182,819 cases have been registered in the country since then, and 1,300 people died (as of 17th October 2021). Currently, a decline in cases has been observed, with about 450 new cases being reported across the country every day at present. The vaccination coverage is still relatively low. (12.6% fully vaccinated, one vaccine dose 28.6%; WHO, as of 05 October 2021). SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics have so far been performed at the national reference laboratory in Tashkent (Service on Sanitary Epidemiological Wellbeing and Public Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan-RepSES) and various regional laboratories.

In April 2021, the Uzbek Ministry of Health and the RepSES requested the support of the Rapid Expert Group on Health (SEEG) to strengthen and implement quality assurance of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. The SEEG is a cooperation between the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, the Friedrich Löffler Institute, the Charité, and the RKI. From 20 to 30 September 2021, a team of experts from Charité, Martsinovsky Institute for Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine, Moscow, RKI and GIZ visited RepSES in Tashkent and a regional laboratory in Nukus (Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic) to strengthen the quality of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and the diagnostic capacity of the laboratories.

Nukus training to strengthen SARS CoV-2 diagnostic capacity © GIZNukus training to strengthen SARS CoV-2 diagnostic capacity © GIZ

During RepSES training, the participants were familiarized with the principles and practice of internal and external quality control as well as the recognition and elimination of sources of error. Weaknesses in the work processes in the RepSES laboratory were analyzed and improved through targeted training sessions. Overall, the internal quality control system was successfully established and an external quality assurance activity was carried out. In Nukus, about 1000 km west of Tashkent, the training focused on the basics of molecular SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and an evaluation of the currently established SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic procedure by actively observing and evaluating the workflows in the laboratory, which could thus be improved. The participants, both in Tashkent and in Nukus, were consistently highly motivated and extremely committed.

Overall, the SEEG mission attracted a lot of attention in Uzbekistan. During the mission, an informal reception with the German Ambassador Dr. Tilo Klinner took place at the German Embassy in Tashkent. Afterwards, the SEEG team was welcomed by the Director of RepSES and his administrative staff. This event was flanked by both national print and TV media. In Nukus, the entire SEEG team was received by Mr. Qurbanov Murad Ismaylovich, Acting Minister of Health of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests on training participants and other team members in Tashkent © GIZSARS-CoV-2 antigen tests on training participants and other team members in Tashkent © GIZ

Date: 28.10.2021