Which African countries are ahead on testing?

Nigerian woman receiving swab test in Abuja

The test plays an important role in the response to the coronavirus, as it helps us understand how far the disease has spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, which coordinate pandemic responses across the continent, says there is a big gap in testing rates between nations.

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So, which countries are managing to test and which are lagging behind?

Who is testing more and less?

Some of Africa's smaller countries have achieved significantly better test rates than their larger neighbors.

Mauritius and Djibouti, for example, achieved high rates of testing per capita.

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Ghana was also praised for its level of testing, which, according to its government, will help to stem the spread of the virus once the blockade is lifted.

Coronavirus testing in Africa
Coronavirus testing in Africa

South Africa has also adopted a relatively aggressive testing strategy and has so far managed more than 200,000 tests. But that is far behind the numbers in countries like South Korea, Italy and Germany.

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There are concerns that Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, is not testing enough – although the government insists on focusing on "groups" of positive cases.

Social distance in Uganda
Social distance in Uganda

The BBC's Nigeria correspondent, Chi Chi Izundu, says authorities are stepping up the tests.

"The goal is to reach 5,000 a day – but they haven't even reached 1,000".

It is worth adding that there are some countries on the continent where test data are not available, such as Eritrea and Algeria.

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Some have no testing capability, while others, for various reasons, do not provide data.

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For example, President Magufuli of Tanzania said that disclosing this data creates fear. Your country has only released information intermittently, sometimes only disclosing the number of people who have recovered from the virus.

What are the obstacles to further testing?

It is difficult to obtain the chemical reagents needed to process the tests, as African countries do not produce their own and must compete for limited global supplies.

John Nkengasong, of the Africa Disease Control Center, says that "the collapse of global cooperation and the failure of international solidarity has driven Africa out of the diagnostics market."

He says that African countries may have resources, but "70 countries that impose restrictions on the export of medical supplies" made it difficult to purchase the necessary goods.

A person holding a pamphlet in Nigeria that tells people how to contain the spread of the virus
A person holding a pamphlet in Nigeria that tells people how to contain the spread of the virus

There are also other barriers to increased testing, including blocking measures to restrict movement, which can make it difficult for people to access test sites.

However, Ngozi Erondu, an associate member of the Center for Universal Health, Chatham House, says the biggest problem is the equipment.

"You are not having enough kits and reagents," says Dr. Erondu.

Currently, the Nigeria Disease Control Center has 18 testing laboratories that can process tests that tell you if you have the disease. But it made an urgent appeal for essential test equipment.

Kenya also admitted to facing challenges in obtaining test kits, swabs and reagents, and its overall number of tests has recently dropped as a result.

The head of one of Kenya's regional governments said recently that there were only 5,000 test kits in the country and that they expected an additional 24,000.

Meeting in Lagos state, Nigeria, to plan to combat coronavirus
Meeting in Lagos state, Nigeria, to plan to combat coronavirus

There are also other social and political factors that can be barriers to further testing.

"In some communities, there may be a stigma associated with having the coronavirus," says Ngozi Erondu. "It is also the case that local leaders will oppose the tests if they are in an election."

The African Union and the Centers for Disease Control in Africa have launched an initiative, the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Tests (PACT), which focuses on screening, testing and screening.

The initiative aims to launch around one million tests in four weeks across the continent.

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Image of the banner reading & # 39; more about coronavirus & # 39;
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The first coronavirus outbreaks in Asia and Europe gave African states time to consider their responses, and the experience of dealing with epidemics like Ebola also helped them.

But acquiring test kits in a competitive global market, taking tests where they need them and installing laboratories to process samples is not a simple task for countries with less economic influence and weaker health systems.

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