What are the Challenges facing COVID-19 testing in Africa?

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By Gabriel Oke

Accessing populations would be quite tasking and difficult for COVID-19 testing especially in countries which do not have a well-equipped health system. The effort of healthcare workers and scientists to develop fast and dependable molecular diagnostic tests for COVID-19 has not been without challenges.

From a limited number of well-equipped laboratories to poor health financing of health systems over the years towards preparedness for epidemics. The reliance on referral system to specially equipped laboratories can only be a way of making confirmation of COVID-19 test results. The issue of lack of reagents, weak laboratory capacities, the vulnerability of the population and limited primary health care has proven to hinder several funding African countries has received so far.

According to WHO reports, before the first case of COVID-19 in Africa, only 6 countries namely Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone had received kits and reagents and molecular diagnosis for COVID 2020. This is also coupled with weak health systems including inadequate surveillance and laboratory capacities city of public health human resources and limited financial means. Africa CDC and Ministries had to depend on contributions from external sources. Across the African continent, there is little or no commercially available diagnostic test kits and reagents readily available and accessible to the laboratory technicians thus lacking the capacity to carry out diagnostic testing.
This is to say despite the fact the virus has been on a rampage, the fact that the virus didn’t hit Africa early slowed down preparedness. Although the method of setting up responses to Ebola is similar to that of COVID-19 as reported from WHO second meeting in China, Africa still has multiple health challenges like existing epidemics and emerging infections pathogens and increasing cases of NCDs. It was after funds from various organisations and foundation was released that Africa Center for Disease Control and WHO set up the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus (AFCOR).
There was also slow responses from some countries such as Egypt, Algeria and South Africa who have much importation and influx of people from China which should have placed a ban on time and test returnees from China and countries like Italy immediately after the case was reported in China.

Furthermore, Cascading capacity building training for African of African centre for disease control and WHO down the health system pyramid in each country hasn’t been efficient and encompassing for all-region. Also, Reduced manufacturing capacity of some of the testing materials and Regent has also embraced problem to Logistics.

Most countries in the African continent fall in the category of low or middle-income earners. The coronavirus pandemic is a global issue which not only requires knowledge and skills but finances are also required moreso for efficient diagnostic testing to be carried out. Thus, most of the countries in the African continent rely on donations from developed countries such as the U.S.A, China and organisations such as the World Bank and WHO.

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