Ten countries account for 80% of the new coronavirus testing taking place across Africa, a regional body said yesterday, indicating that little testing is taking place in many countries around the vast continent.
Covid-19 confirmed cases across Africa have accelerated and are close to hitting a million this week, and experts say low levels of testing in many countries means infection rates are likely to be higher than reported.
Some governments across the continent are too poor or conflict-ridden to carry out widespread testing, while others are reluctant to share data or to expose their crumbling health systems to outside scrutiny.
South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Mauritius have each conducted more than 200,000 tests, said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
So far nearly 9mn tests have been conducted across the continent, up 9.4% from last week’s tally.
“This number indicates we reached 90% of our goal for the partnership to accelerate Covid testing,” Nkengasong told a virtual news conference.
The regional body said it had supported 14 other countries with an additional 240,000 tests.
Meanwhile, Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, imposed a three-week curfew on Wednesday after coronavirus cases surged over 60% in the last seven days to nearly 800.
Authorities attributed the rise to people relaxing their guard on protective measures that had so far kept Gambia’s case total the lowest in Africa.
Testing has also increased in the country, where the number of deaths is 16.
A 10pm to 5am curfew went into effect yesterday, public gatherings will be banned and markets will have to close by 2pm, government spokesman Ebrima Sankareh told the national broadcaster.
He had said earlier in the day that authorities would increase police, paramilitary, marine and immigration presence on its border with Senegal as scores of Senegalese who live in Gambia return from celebrating Eid al-Adha with their wider families.
Senegal has recorded over 10,500 cases.
The minister for women’s affairs, children and social welfare, Fatou Kinteh, tested positive on Wednesday for Covid-19, becoming the fourth minister to do so this week.
Vice President Isatou Touray also tested positive on July 29, leading President Adama Barrow to enter self-isolation.
The government said on Tuesday the president had tested negative.
The Health Ministry said six people who were confirmed cases were still at large, while two other positive cases had fled from a treatment centre in the capital.
In South Africa, funeral parlours have become makeshift mortuaries as virus deaths rise.
One such funeral parlour is run by Monageng Legae in the township of Soweto.
Behind the parlour sits a refrigerated shipping container made to store chilled goods.
Now it stores bodies.
Funeral businesses like Legae’s Sopema Funerals have taken such measures to cope with the influx of bodies into their morgues as South Africa’s coronavirus cases rise above half a million, with deaths at around 9,000.
Surrounded by coffins in his showroom and wearing a protective mask and visor, Legae said he handled 85 funerals in June and 75 in July, compared with 30 a month this time last year.
The cost of the container, along with outlays on a temporary outdoor waiting area, more staff and an additional night shift, has helped wipe out additional revenues.
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