The Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention , John Nkengasong , has said the collapse of global cooperation and failure of international solidarity have shoved Africa out of the global coronavirus diagnostics market .
He decried the ‘ low testing rate’ for COVID – 19 in Africa , warning that no country could securely eliminate COVID – 19 — or its devastating economic domino effects — if the disease becomes rampant across a continent of 1 . 3 billion people .
Speaking on Monday via the agency ’ s official Twitter handle @ AfricaCDC, Nkengasong also warned that though Africa is boosting its capacity to respond to the pandemic, the lack of solidarity would cost lives .
The Africa CDC director expressed displeasure that COVID – 19 testing in Africa is still very limited.
According to him , with 1 . 3 billion people , the continent has so far tested less than 500 , 000 people , “ which is less than 500 per million tested . ”
“ If you don’ t test , you don’ t find, ” Nkengasong warns .
He noted that many African countries had gained competence to test for the virus , but , however, lack appropriate reagents to do so .
“ Lack of access to diagnostics is Africa ’ s Achilles heel .
“ When SARS- CoV- 2 was first reported , genome sequences were made available within weeks and several groups in Asia and Europe started producing in- house tests.
“ Africa lacked this capacity and had to wait for the tests to be introduced — a tardy ‘ trickle- down ’ of diagnostics .
“ The situation has now become worse — a race is on by the powerful to acquire whatever COVID – 19 tests are available .
“The collapse of global cooperation and a failure of international solidarity have shoved Africa out of the diagnostics market .
“ With its lack of hospitals and high prevalence of conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis , malaria and malnutrition , Africa could see COVID – 19 mortality rates higher than elsewhere , even in children.
” It will be higher still the more slowly we implement testing.
“ No country can securely eliminate COVID – 19 — or its devastating economic domino effects — if the disease becomes rampant across a continent of 1 . 3 billion people .
“ For Africa to get ahead of the pandemic , we need to scale up testing fast, ” Nkengasong warned .
He noted that the first case of COVID – 19 in Africa was reported in Egypt on 14 February , 2020.
“ Since then, 52 countries in Africa have reported more than 30, 000 cases and about 1 , 400 deaths from the new coronavirus .
“ This count is likely to be an underestimate ; Ethiopia has run about 11 , 000 tests — only 10 for every 100 , 000 people .
“ Much- richer South Africa has run about 280 per 100 , 000 .
“ For Australia, the number is about 2 , 000 [per 100 , 000 ]; for the United States , it ’ s 1 , 560 ” , he said .
He however, stated that since African countries were used to widespread testing for pathogens such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, such expertise could easily be adapted for SARS- CoV – 2 testing.
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