June 6, 2020

COVID-19: AU Sets Ambitious Target of Testing 10m People by September

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With basic testing resources in most of the continent, it will be a huge challenge to test more than 7m people in next months

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention or Africa CDC on Thursday rolled out a new initiative to ramp up the COVID-19 response across the continent.

Known as the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing in Africa, or PACT, the initiative aims to ramp up testing, contact tracing, and treatment of cases on the continent.

Through this initiative, Africa CDC is putting forth a “call to action” to governments, as well as pledging to support the testing of 10 million people over the next four months, the deployment of 1 million community health workers, who will be involved in contact tracing, as well as the training of 100,000 health care workers.

Currently, there are over 163,000 cases of COVID-19 across the continent, with an average of about 5,400 new cases per day, said Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, during a press conference.

African countries have only conducted 2.4 million tests with a positivity rate of 6.4%. Ten countries contribute to 79% of the testing, said Raji Tajudeen, head of public health institutes and research at Africa CDC, during a webinar Wednesday.

On average, African countries have tested about 1,700 people for every 1 million people living on the continent, Nkengasong said — much lower than the rest of the world. For example, Italy has tested 37,000 people per 1 million and the United Kingdom about 30,000 per 1 million.

Since everyone cannot be tested, because of global shortages of tests, the initiative aims to focus on “smart screening” — testing in areas with high levels of cases, Tajudeen said. It also encourages countries to decentralize testing away from capital cities.

As part of the initiative, PACT also plans next week to launch a continentwide procurement, storage, and distribution platform for health commodities needed in the COVID-19 response.

This new platform will allow countries to put in requests for diagnostic kits at an agreed-upon, competitive price. It will be a “game changer,” Nkengasong said.

“You don’t need to search the market anymore because we have searched that market for you and accumulated and secured those products,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to unlock the supply chain management for the commodities that we need to fight COVID-19.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Africa CDC has distributed over 2.5 million tests.

In Rwanda, total number of people tested reached 74,000 on Friday as the country tackles a new resurgence of the virus in Rusizi and Rubavu regions – all bordering DR Congo. The situation is also turning for the worst in Kirehe district.

Regionally, the number of people tested also remains at similar numbers like Rwanda. However, in South Sudan, Burundi and Tanzania, tests are unknown as governments there have avoided taking action on the virus.

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