World, Africa

COVID-19: Africa to boost rapid diagnostic tests

WHO Regional Director for Africa says high-quality rapid tests will help meet huge unmet testing needs in Africa

Rodrigue Forku   | 22.10.2020
COVID-19: Africa to boost rapid diagnostic tests

YAOUNDE, Cameroon

Africa to increase coronavirus testing capacities that will help to meet the huge unmet testing needs across the continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa said on Thursday.

"African countries are gearing up to introduce antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests on a large scale and this will be a game-changer in our fight against COVID-19," Matshidiso Moeti, told a virtual press briefing.

''These high-quality rapid tests will help meet the huge unmet testing needs in Africa," she added.

Moeti said while there are testing challenges in many parts of the world, Africa faces a significant gap. For example, ''Senegal has significantly boosted its testing capacity, but it is still testing 14 times less than the Netherlands. Nigeria is testing 11 times less than Brazil.''

"The new rapid tests are easy to use, cheaper than polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, and provide the results in under 30 min, enabling countries to decentralize testing and speed-up the turnaround time for results to quickly reach, identify, test and isolate," she added.

Moeti said the WHO is working hand-in-hand with countries by sending out key policy and operational guidance documents, developing a training package, and deploying experts in the field to support the roll-out of these tests.

There are over 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent - with more than 1.3 million recoveries and over 40,000 deaths cumulatively, according to WHO.

South Africa is the hardest-hit country with over 708 359, with 18,741 and 641,706 recoveries, according to the country's Health Ministry.

With a population of nearly 58 million, South Africa has conducted over 4.6 million tests since March.

Africa aims to do 20 million coronavirus tests by November this year, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in August.

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