Health professionals welcomed the approach and said it will help the continent to get ahead of the pandemic rather than playing catch up. Since the start of the outbreak, Africa has recorded more than 8 million COVID-19 cases and 214,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rapid testing will also provide officials with data to help avoid overwhelming health systems and implementing restrictions that can be “disastrous as far as economic consequences,” said Ngozi Erondu, senior scholar at Georgetown University's O’Neill Institute.
However, the U.N. warned that with Africa having millions of undetected cases it is urgent to speed up the continent's access to vaccines, which have been to slow to arrive. Africa’s vaccination rates are low. Only 30% of the continent's 54 countries having fully vaccinated 10% of their populations while many high-income countries have achieved vaccination rates of almost 90%, according to the U.N.
With the approach of end-of-year travel that is expected to cause a surge in cases, Moeti said African countries should prepare for a possible fourth wave. She urged wealthy countries to share a significant number of doses with Africa right now rather than wait until next year.