Africa to Expand COVID-19 Testing as it awaits more Vaccines

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Africa’s Centres for Disease Control (CDC) plans to scale up antigen testing to identify and address pandemic hotspots while it awaits COVID-19 vaccines promised by the US and other countries.

“We are only at 4% vaccination rate, which means we have to continue to advance basic public health tools at our disposition, including rapid antigen test scale-up and enhanced community work so that we can know exactly where the hotspots of this virus are and flush it out while waiting for vaccine coverage to increase,” said John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director.

He added that Africa CDC and partners would be launching its “2.0 response plan” in the coming weeks that aimed at scaling up testing, and expanding the outreach of community health workers.

“There can be no doubt we need to test at scale, and we need to decentralise testing and put it in the hands of our community health care workers,” added Nkengasong in an address to an international audience organised by the US Ambassador to the African Union and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Nkengasong described community health care workers as the “nexus for universal health coverage and health security”, essential to fight the current pandemic and to prepare for subsequent disease outbreaks.

A recent comparison of World Bank regions put the Middle East and North Africa as the third-worst affected region in the world after Latin America and South Asia.

Meanwhile, Egypt outstrips a number of hard-hit countries including the US on excess mortality.

There has been an increase in demand for COVID-19 vaccines across Africa in the past few weeks – from Zimbabwe to Morocco, according to Nkengasong.

However, he acknowledged that in some countries, including Uganda, there had been a slowdown in demand.