The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $100 million loan to strengthen Uzbekistan’s resilience to public health emergencies, including the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, by steadily improving testing, diagnosis, and the management of COVID-19 cases over the next two years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is exceptional in size and nature with evolving epidemiological and treatment scenarios,” said ADB Vice-President Shixin Chen. “By improving the quality, safety standards, protocols, and services of the country’s health system, this project will help to protect the people of Uzbekistan from COVID-19 and guard against future health threats. This is part of ADB’s comprehensive package of support to the country, which also includes a $500 million loan to help finance the government’s anti-crisis measures and ongoing technical assistance.”
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is working to provide cofinancing of $100 million for the project, subject to board approval, while the Government of Uzbekistan will provide a further $57 million.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Project will support increased testing capacity for COVID-19 and related illnesses at 38 laboratories nationwide. The project will refurbish the laboratories to ensure safe working conditions and provide them with personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. Health workers, more than 80% of whom are women, and facility staff who are at high risk of infection will be given priority access to diagnostic services.
The project will establish a digital national surveillance and response system for COVID-19 that will provide age- and sex-disaggregated data, and train health care workers to use it. This will help improve Uzbekistan’s capacity to identify infected people and improve contact tracing, screening, testing, isolation, and case referral nationwide. The project will help develop and publish medical protocols and train primary health care workers and institutional caretakers to identify potential COVID-19 cases and provide appropriate advice. Screening and processes related to the collection and transportation of respiratory samples to laboratories will be strengthened.
Sixteen COVID-19 treatment centers will be refurbished to provide better gender-segregated services for staff and patients, including 14 regional hospitals for infectious diseases and two national-level hospitals. As designated COVID-19 treatment centers, equipment at these hospitals will be upgraded, with expanded intensive care units and additional ambulances. The staff will be trained in infection prevention and control, safety, and quality patient care.
“By improving testing and tracing, and gradually upgrading laboratories and hospitals nationwide over the next two years, this project represents an essential investment in Uzbekistan’s health systems that will benefit ordinary citizens, including women, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said ADB Health Specialist Hiddo Huitzing.
Project implementation will begin immediately and is scheduled to be completed by July 2022. Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health and the Agency for Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing will be the executing and implementing agencies, respectively.