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Africa urged to use university labs to increase Covid testing

A U.S. Coast Guard member working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport reads the temperature of an international traveler who recently visited Guinea. Temperature checks are part of the enhanced passenger screening process occurring at the international airport in Atlanta which began Oct. 16. Photo by Yolanda Choates

Coming weeks critical in continent’s response, warn top researchers

African SARS-Cov-2 testing centres should rope in research laboratories at universities and research organisations to boost centres’ testing capacity, a journal paper has argued.

“In most countries, there are one or two designated centers ‘accredited’ for testing Covid-19 cases. This will mean a lot of samples must be shipped from long distances across the country,” the paper warns.

The article appeared online on the African Academy of Sciences’ Open Research platform on 18 May. The authors are based in Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

The researchers used their various areas of expertise to gauge Africa’s preparedness for Covid-19, and the possible impacts of the pandemic on the continent. 

Diagnostics through faster and more reliable tests adapted to the African context is the most crucial area for Covid-19 research on the continent, the paper argues.

“Innovative funding mechanisms need to be developed to enable development of point of care diagnostics research, prototyping, and implementation research as associated business and regulatory ecosystems in Africa, to reduce turn-around-time and reliance on solutions from out of Africa in such situations as presented by Covid-19,” the authors write.

The researchers warn that the next few weeks will be crucial to Africa’s response to the novel coronavirus crisis. Apart from the health aspects, the researchers urge governments to pay attention to issues surrounding mental health, gender-based violence, and xenophobia.

“The partnership of African economists, investors, scientists, tech-experts, health practitioners and political stakeholders will be required to slow down the Covid-19 trajectory on the continent,” the authors write.