Background: In May 2020, the African Journal of Primary Health Care and Family Medicine invited submissions on lessons learnt from responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from primary care providers in Africa. This included descriptions of innovations and good practices, the management of COVID-19 in district health services and responses of communities to the outbreak. Aim: To synthesise the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic in the Africa region. Methods: A thematic document analysis was conducted on twenty-seven short report publications from Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Findings: Eight major themes were derived from the data: community-based activities; screening and testing; reorganisation of health services; emergency care for COVID-19; maintenance of essential nonCOVID-19 health services; caring for the vulnerable; use of information technology; and reframing training opportunities. Community health workers were a vital community resource, delivering medications and other supplies to homes, as well as following up on patients with chronic conditions. More investment in community partnerships and social mobilisation was proposed. Difficulties with procurement of test kits and turn-around times were constraints for most countries. Authors described how services were reorganised for focused COVID-19 activities, sometimes to the detriment of essential services and training of junior doctors. Innovations in use of internet technology for communication and remote consultations were explored. The contribution of family medicine principles in upholding the humanity of patients and their families, clear leadership and planning, multidisciplinary teamwork and continuity of care was emphasised even in the context of providing critical care.

Conclusions: The community-orientated primary care approach was emphasised as well as long-term benefits of technological innovations. The pandemic exposed the need to deliver on governmental commitments to strengthening primary health care and universal health coverage…more