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COVID-19: Senegal and Nigeria fighting the good fight

  • Published at 08:53 pm March 19th, 2020
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As one African nation hosts  high-level research for a quicker test kit, another prepares to tackle Covid-19

As African countries across the continent brace for the novel coronavirus impact, widespread panic over the outbreak has not spread in Africa compared to the rest of the world.

While the Covid-19 virus is definitely spreading in the continent, some African nations have surpassed others in preparedness and innovation. 

Two countries in particular have grabbed the attention of the media. A lab in Senegal, in partnership with the UK is working on developing a quicker test kit for Covid-19. And Nigeria has appeared uniquely prepared for handling the outbreak. 

An invention that can change the rule of the game

One of the toughest challenges in fighting Covid-19 has been the testing process. Currently, the sinuous testing process requires collecting samples from patients through a throat swab, transporting the samples to a laboratory that has the test kits, and then waiting for the results as long as 24 hours. This causes exponential delays, preventing health care personnel from taking timely action, further exacerbating the spread of the disease. 

But this will change dramatically if a Senegalese lab succeeds in its ongoing endeavor of developing a much faster test kit. 

A facility in Dakar, Senegal, in partnership with the UK government is on its way to develop a 10-minute test kit that can diagnose Covid-19 in just 10 minutes. 

The Institut Pasteur de Dakar, the Senegalese organization is working with the British biotech firm Mologic as part of the UK government’s £46 ($60 million) coronavirus prevention and research funding package, from which the government awarded a £1 grant to Mologic. 

The process for manufacturing this kit is being conducted at Dia Tropix, a newly built specialized facility for epidemic-related research and innovation in Dakar, Senegal, reports Quartz Africa. 

The expected date of completion of the test kits has been set for June. So far, testing time has proven a significant roadblock to effectively managing the spread of Covid-19. 

How Nigeria became a shining example of containing epidemic 

When Ebola broke out in 2014, the West African nations were in a precarious situation from the spread of the deadly virus. Nigeria’s quick response by mobilizing resources and manpower, spearheaded by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was immensely successful and was widely praised. 

After 15,000 confirmed cases and 9 thousand suspected cases in West Africa, the outbreak was controlled, astoundingly within just 92 days, which the World Health Organization called a “piece of world-class epidemiological detective work.”

Nature Medicine, a publication of Nature, one of the leading international weekly journal of science, in an article published last week chronicled the country’s outstanding feat and how Nigeria came to be very prepared for the current coronavirus outbreak. 

Ready for the battle 

The response infrastructure built during the course of the last outbreak will be put to test now in the wake of the novel coronavirus. But for COVID-19, the country had the time to prepare, Aderinola Olaolu, Deputy Incident Manager of Nigeria’s Coronavirus Emergency Operation told Nature Medicine. 

Nigeria achieved this as a result of a number of intercountry and regional collaborations over the past. The initiative was triggered by the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The government realized, said Olaolu, that it needed a public-health institute to be able to combat infectious disease. 

This resulted in NCDC’s being signed into law in 2018, giving the centre legislative authority to perform its functions. 

And now Nigeria is equipped, better than ever, to tackle the current Covid-19 crisis. “[W]e ensured information went around to Nigerians, especially on personal hygiene and cough etiquette, for more than a month. We’ve shared case definition with health workers, [and] we have a network of state and public health emergency network centers around the country so that we can coordinate information. We have skilled manpower [who] can do contact tracing, and also treat, [and] we now have five testing laboratories that have helped in shortening our response time for detection,” Olaolu told Nature Medicine.