By Sharon Atieno

Despite testing being essential in curbing the spread of COVID-19, a new report finds that none of the countries in the continent has tested up to 1 % of their population for the virus.

The report published in the Lancet, notes that insufficient funding is a challenge but even where there is enough funding, competition from developing countries when procuring supplies is still an issue. Insufficient staff and specimen referral systems are among other challenges.

The report further finds that the more than 30 000 confirmed cases reported in Africa, reflect restricted testing as higher capacity countries, such as South Africa, Morocco, and Algeria, report many times more cases than countries with lower testing capacity such as Nigeria.

“Africa CDC has a plan to distribute 1 million tests, but even with a newly established pooled purchasing platform that secured 100 000 tests from Germany, in April, 2020, the continent falls very short from the tens of millions tests the UN estimates will be required,” the report dubbed: Access to lifesaving medical resources for African countries: COVID-19 testing and response, ethics, and politics reads.

With presymptomatic transmission being responsible for up to 44% of secondary infections, the report notes that, testing strategies are key to ameliorating economic and social hardship, concentrating resources, and allowing more targeted interventions.

The authors of the report add that with the expansion of funding and supplies, widespread testing is possible for instance, using trained staff and platforms from the AIDS and tuberculosis response.