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Thursday, August 06, 2020, 22:47
Only 10 countries account for 80% of Africa virus testing
By Agencies
Thursday, August 06, 2020, 22:47 By Agencies


Priests walk as an undertaker wearing a protective suit and a face shield and relatives escort the coffin containing the remains of a COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) victim during a funeral proceeding at a funeral house in Johannesburg, on July 26, 2020. (MICHELE SPATARI / AFP)

MAPUTO / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / WASHINGTON / OAKLAND / BANJUL / PARIS / MOSCOW / BERLIN / MADRID / BUCHAREST / ATHENS / WARSAW - Ten countries account for 80 percent of the new coronavirus testing taking place across Africa, a regional body said on Thursday, 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

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.

READ MORE: Uganda's tough approach curbs virus, even as Africa nears 1m cases

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 9 million tests have been conducted across the continent, up 9.4 percent 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.

The impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent could be long-lasting, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui stressed on Wednesday, as the death toll in Africa topped 21,000.

"The AU will continue to support governments to make extremely difficult choices to address the impact of COVID-19 across the continent," the AU Peace and Security Commissioner said, following the launch of a report entitled "The Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Governance, Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa."

"With at least 28 million people experiencing food insecurity before the pandemic, COVID-19 is expected to deepen food insecurity by at least 19 percent in the Horn of Africa region," the report reads.

It was stressed in the report that extremist groups such as Al Shabaab have exploited the pandemic by using misinformation and to provide basic services in affected areas, further challenging governance and stability.

The impact of COVID-19 on women and young girls was also highlighted as a key area for gender-relevant intervention. 

The AU, which noted that the current mortality rate "remains moderately low" in Africa as compared with the rest of the world, stressed that testing could be further improved to reach the recommended target of 1.3 million tests per month per region.

As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases in Africa reached 976,208 while the death toll rose to 21,050, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

READ MORE: COVID-19: WHO expects long-term response efforts

Global tally

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide topped 18.8 million while the global death toll surpassed 707,000 on Thursday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States is the worst-hit country with the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths, followed by Brazil. 

Besides the two countries, other nations with more than 400,000 cases include India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru, according to the CSSE. 

A sign reminding people to wear a mask stands in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, on Aug 5, 2020. (MARK HUMPHREY / AP)

Belarus

Belarus reported 127 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, taking its total to 68,503, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 331 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 63,756, the ministry added.

So far, 580 people have died of the disease in the country, including three over the past 24 hours, it said.

As of Thursday, over 1,344,000 tests for the virus have been conducted across the country, including 9,435 over the past 24 hours, according to official figures.

Brazil

Brazil reported 57,152 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,437 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Brazil has registered 2,859,073 cases since the pandemic began while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 97,256, according to ministry data, in the world's worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said that the government was considering extending more emergency economic aid to the nation's poorest citizens. Brazil will face another "one or two more months of economic difficulties" as a result of the impact caused by the pandemic, said Guedes.

According to the Brazilian government, so far, more than 65 million people have received emergency government aid.

READ MORE: Brazil's court rules govt must protect tribes from coronavirus

Chile

The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 364,723, with 9,792 deaths.

According to the ministry, 1,781 new cases and 47 more deaths were registered in the last 24 hours.

Colombia

The Colombian Ministry of Health on Wednesday said the country's COVID-19 tally has risen to 345,714, with 11,624 deaths.

According to the authorities, 10,735 new cases and 309 more deaths were registered in the past 24 hours.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has tested positive for the coronavirus, just one day after being placed under house arrest by the Andean country's Supreme Court.

The former president is not displaying symptoms, a member of Uribe's team told Reuters on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the health ministry announced that the reopening of pilot programs would soon begin in restaurants, gyms, and drive-in movie theaters across the country.

Ecuador

The government of Ecuador reported on Wednesday that the country's COVID-19 caseload has risen to 88,866, with 5,847 deaths.

A total of 903 new cases and 39 more deaths were registered in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Public Health said.

On Wednesday, the country began reopening some of its national beaches as part of the government's plan to reactivate the weakened tourism sector.

Egypt

Egypt reported 18 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the lowest daily fatalities in the country since May 27, raising the death toll to 4,930, said the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the country saw its highest number of daily recoveries, as 1,613 more patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the number of recoveries to 47,182, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

A total of 123 fresh infections were detected, bringing the tally to 94,875, according to spokesman. It was the fourth consecutive day for daily infections in Egypt to fall below 200.

People wearing face masks tour central Strasbourg, eastern France, Aug 5, 2020. (GENEVIEVE ENGEL / XINHUA)

France

France's daily COVID-19 infections reached the highest in more than two months on Wednesday, at 1,695, and the seven-day moving average stood above the 1,300 threshold for the first time since the end of April, when the country was still in lockdown.

The 1,222 daily average of cases seen since the beginning of August is now almost three times higher than June's 435 figure but still half April's 2,585, when the pandemic was in full swing.

Paris authorities are expected to announce shortly that people will have to wear face masks along the banks of the river Seine and around the trendy Canal Saint-Martin, as well as in some of the capital's other tourist hot spots.

Also on Wednesday, the country reported nine additional deaths, raising the death toll to 30,305, the seventh-highest in the world. The number of confirmed cases stands at 194,029.

Germany

Germany's new coronavirus cases on Thursday breached the 1,000 threshold for the first time since early May, while Poland reported a record number of fresh infections for the fifth time since last week.

The surge in new infections prompted authorities in the two countries to introduce new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

There were 1,285 new cases in Germany in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the most since May 1 and bringing the total to 214,113. Deaths rose by 16 to 9,179.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, confirmed cases increased by 1,045 to 213,067 while the death toll rose by seven to 9,175.

The reproduction factor -- or R value -- dropped to 0.9 on Wednesday, according to the latest report by RKI. It’s the first time the infection rate has dropped below the key threshold of 1.0 since July 24.

ALSO READ: WHO chief: There might be no 'silver bullet' for COVID-19

Travelers returning to Germany from risk regions will face mandatory coronavirus tests from Saturday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, warning that the accelerating pace of new infections was a cause for concern.

Spahn blamed both the impact of travelers returning from abroad and people's flagging adherence to social distancing guidelines for the increase, although he conceded that increased testing was also responsible for part of the increase.

Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry revised its travel guidance for Belgium, warning against all non-essential travel to the province of Antwerp because of the high incidence of the coronavirus epidemic in the region. In parallel, Germany's public health agency declared the region centered on Belgium's largest port and second city as a high-risk area.

Greece

Greeks must stick to rules aimed at containing the coronavirus more closely than ever, the country's prime minister said on Wednesday, warning of new restrictions if a worrying rise in daily cases does not abate.

Greece reported 124 new cases on Wednesday, part of a surge of what appears to be mainly domestic infections.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the registered rise in infections, three months after restrictions were eased, as "worrying".

Total infections have reached 4,973 with data showing the virus affecting more younger people than before. Experts say that could be due either to an increase in tests or because more visitors have been tested during Greece's peak tourism season.

Italy

Italian officials have vowed that the country's schools will reopen as normal next month. Many of the rules that will be in force for the reopening are still under discussion.

"I commit to the young people, to the families, to the country, to teachers, and to staff that schools will reopen," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in an interview published Wednesday in local newspaper Corriere Della Sera. "I have no doubt."

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina gave the green light to nearly 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) in new spending on the country's schools, which is in addition to 1.3 billion euros announced previously. 

Azzolina said classrooms will be limited to 15 students to allow for social distancing, and that as many as 50,000 new teachers will be hired to allow for the creation of new classes.

Italy has reported 248,803 confirmed cases and 35,181 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Kenya

Kenya's number of COVID-19 recoveries neared 10,000 as 603 more patients were discharged from health facilities in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

Mutahi Kagwe, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Health, said that a total of 9,930 patients have recovered so far.

Meanwhile, some 671 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 23,873, according to Kagwe.

Three more deaths were reported, raising the deatht oll to 391, Kagwe said.

Health workers put nasal swab samples into a test tube to test for COVID-19, in Xochimilco, Mexico City, Aug 5, 2020. (EDUARDO VERDUGO / AP)

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Wednesday reported 6,139 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 829 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 456,100 cases and 49,698 deaths.

The new numbers put Mexico on track to surpass 50,000 deaths this week. Mexico currently has the world's third-highest coronavirus death toll, after the United States and Brazil.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Morocco

Morocco on Wednesday reported 1,283 new COVID-19 cases, the biggest single-day increase so far, taking the number of infections in the country to 28,500.

The total number of recoveries increased by 365 to 19,994 while the death toll rose by 18 to 435 in the last 24 hours, said Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the Ministry of Health, at a press briefing. 

Mozambique

Mozambique will enter another 30 days of state of emergency from Friday while the government seeks to relax some restrictive measures in three phases in the near future, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced on Wednesday night.

Nyusi said the government has defined three phases for resuming social and economic activities based on the degree of risks to public health.

Phase one will start from Aug 18, with the resumption of face-to-face classes in higher education institutions, military academies, teacher-training, technical-professional and health institutes. Religious gathering with no more than 50 people will also be allowed in phase one.

In phase two, which would start from September, cinemas, casinos, gyms, and driving schools will reopen.

Meanwhile, under phase three, Grade 12 classes would resume starting on Oct 30.

Mozambique has reported 2,079 confirmed cases and 15 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Poland

In Poland, 726 new cases were reported on Thursday, according to the health ministry's Twitter account. The country has reported a total of 49,515 coronavirus cases and 1,774 deaths, according to the ministry.

The government will impose limits on restaurants, sporting events, public transport and weddings in 19 of its 380 counties as of Saturday, Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said Thursday. Mask wearing will be mandatory and only half the seats on public transport can be used.

Poland may see a further increase in coronavirus infections, which could reach up to 700 per day during and after this weekend, Szumowski said.

Romania

Romanian schools will reopen on Sept 14 on a case-by-case basis, with towns affected by the new coronavirus pandemic likely to hold classes online, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday.

Coronavirus infections in Romania have exceeded 1,000 new cases per days on all but one of the last 15 days, lifting confirmed cases to 56,550 since the pandemic reached the country in late February.

Some 2,521 people have died, and Romania has extended a state of alert until the middle of August and placed several small towns and villages with spikes in the number of cases under localised quarantine.

Towns with a single case per 1,000 people reported in the last 14 days will see all children back in classrooms. Those with up to three cases will see only kindergartners and a few grades back, with other classes held online. Towns with more than three cases will hold classes exclusively online.

Russia

Russian authorities reported 5,267 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 871,894, the fourth largest in the world.

The official death toll rose to 14,606 after officials said another 116 people had died across the country in the last 24 hours.

Russia is expanding COVID-19 express tests to other major air hubs in Moscow after using them at the country's busiest airport, Sheremetyevo, in the capital, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Wednesday. 

The portable testing system, which fits in two small suitcases, gives results within an hour and is already being used by some Russian companies and at major events, the RDIF said.

As part of a wider plan to create coronavirus-free airport hubs, RDIF said on Wednesday the express tests would be expanded to other Moscow's largest airports, Vnukovo International and Moscow Domodedovo.

It said the testing would be available both for arriving and departing passengers. The service will be rolled out at the airports within a week.

Slovakia

Slovakia, which has one of Europe's lowest COVID-19 death tolls, reported its biggest daily rise in new cases in more than three months, saying it had recorded 63 on Wednesday.

Latest data released on Thursday showed the total number of cases identified so far in Slovakia had reached 2,480, of which 1,824 people have already recovered.

The Health Ministry said the situation remained under control and hospitalisations were steady.

Last week, the country reported its first COVID-19 death since mid-May, bringing the total to 29.

Spain

All Spanish and foreign tourists visiting the Canary Islands will have any potential coronavirus-related costs covered by the regional government, it said on Wednesday, in an attempt to rescue the tourist season after a new spike in infections in Spain.

Such costs include health expenses or the extension of holidays in case of a compulsory quarantine while on the islands. The move will take effect this week.

Meanwhile, Swiss health authorities on Wednesday excluded the archipelago, as well as the Balearic Islands, from its decision to add Spain to its list of countries from which arriving passengers must enter a 10-day quarantine.

Spain reported 1,772 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, marking the biggest daily jump since a national lockdown was lifted in June following a sharp drop in contagion

rates.

The Gambia

The Gambia, mainland Africa's smallest country, imposed a three-week curfew on Wednesday after coronavirus cases surged over 60 percent 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 The Gambia's case total the lowest in Africa. Testing has also increased in the country, where the number of deaths is 16.

A 10 pm to 5 am curfew will go into effect on Thursday, public gatherings will be banned and markets will have to close by 2 pm, government spokesman Ebrima Sankareh told the national broadcaster. 

Earlier in the day, he said that authorities would increase police, paramilitary, marine and immigration presence on its border with Senegal as scores of Senegalese who live in The Gambia return from celebrating Eid al-Adha with their wider families. Senegal has recorded over 10,500 cases.

Meanwhile, 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.

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.

READ MORE: Johnson lambasted for lifting UK virus border controls in March

Togo

Togo's tally of COVID-19 cases reached 1,001 on Wednesday following the addition of 13 new cases that were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the latest report from the Health and Public Hygiene Ministry.

The country has so far recorded 690 recoveries and 21 deaths, according to the report. 

Togo is experiencing new outbreaks of the epidemic in the central and northern regions, Djibril Mohaman, the national coordinator for COVID-19 response, said at a press conference.

"Over the coming two weeks, there will be an increase in confirmed cases after the monitoring of the contacts," he said.

UK

The British government will slap a quarantine on arrivals from Belgium after a rise in coronavirus cases, the Daily Mail newspaper reported.

The Mail said ministers were expected to approve the quarantine at a meeting shortly.

"We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review and publish a weekly update on www.gov.uk to update passengers if significant changes in the incidence of COVID-19 are identified," a spokeswoman for the transport ministry said.

The United Kingdom has recently imposed a 14-day quarantine on travelers from Spain and Luxembourg.

The UK has so far reported more than 307,000 confirmed cases and over 46,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

This combination of two file pictures made on May 17, 2014 shows Google's logo (top) and Apple's logo. (PHOTOS / AFP)

US

Virginia on Wednesday launched the first contact tracing app for the novel coronavirus in the United States that uses new technology from Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The state is betting that the app, COVIDWISE, can help it catch new cases faster, though long delays in getting test results must be overcome in order for it to be effective.

Phones with the app exchange Bluetooth signals to keep an anonymous list of close encounters. The app then allows people who catch the virus to notify those contacts without anyone revealing their identity.

Chicago will teach online only when school resumes in September, the mayor said, and New York City announced checkpoints at bridges and tunnels to enforce a quarantine on travelers from 35 states on a list of coronavirus hot spots

The launch came as US coronavirus cases topped 4.8 million and the death toll surpassed 158,000, according to tally by Johns Hopkins University. Florida became the second US state to top half a million confirmed cases.

ALSO READ: FB, Twitter pull Trump posts over coronavirus misinformation

More than 110 students have been sent home to quarantine for 14 days after six kids and a school staffer tested positive for COVID-19 in a school district in Mississippi, local media reported.

In Arizona, 517 inmates at the Arizona Department of Corrections have been infected, local prison officials said. Across the state, prisons have seen seven fatalities.

Meanwhile, Chicago's mayor said classes will be taught online only when school resumes in September while New York City announced checkpoints at bridges and tunnels to enforce a quarantine on travelers from 35 states on a list of coronavirus hot spots.

Separately, Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases official, said in a Reuters interview that drugmakers will likely have tens of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines in the early part of next year. He said there might be an indication that at least one vaccine works and is safe by year end.

Johnson & Johnson has said it will supply 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine to the US while Moderna Inc said it has received US$400 million of deposits for its potential shot.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe recorded three more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, raising the country's death toll to 84.

The country also reported 118 new cases, taking the tally to 4,339. Recoveries rose by 26 to 1,264 while the number of active cases stood at 2,991.

The government has said that vegetable markets in the country should open for six days with mandatory closure on the seventh day to allow for disinfection in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the country has received more than US$200 million from donors and governments to assist the government in managing the pandemic.

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