When COVID-19 cases were first detected in Africa last year, only two countries – South Africa and Senegal, at the time were able to test the novel coronavirus. This left other countries vulnerable to the highly infectious and sometimes fatal virus.

According to the African Development Bank, the daily testing capacity of African countries rose from 13 200 at the beginning of the pandemic to 105 000 today.

At least 100 000 health workers have been trained and 314 intensive care units are now available for COVID-19 patients, compared to an average of 50 at the beginning of the disease.

“This means that African countries are no longer on the back foot and are recovering gradually,” says the bank.

The countries have also received donations such as Personal Protective Equipment, sanitisers and masks to help stop spread of the coronavirus. The bank, China and the US are among those who have opened their wallets to assist the continent fight the pandemic.

The number of analytical laboratories in Malawi has increased 10 fold from 14 to 164 and 2.5 in Ethiopia to 66; in the Central African Republic, five new screening laboratories have been established. South Africa increased the number of daily screenings by seven times from 5 000 to 35 000, Ethiopia (3 000 to 12 400) and Burkina Faso (268 to 1 160).

“Early detection has been instrumental in limiting the spread of the virus and has helped countries trace, isolate and treat confirmed cases. However this was a challenge in Africa as many countries did not have the adequate testing facilities. This changed as the pandemic progressed as countries such as Côte d’Ivoire which had no laboratory for detecting the coronavirus but now has about 10,” says the bank’s Atsuko Toda.

“It’s a race against time, won hands down. Now we have to win the war against the coronavirus,” adds Toda. “We started almost from scratch. When we look at the progress made in a few months, we realise that we have come a long way.”

So far the continent has reported 178 million cases and 3.86 million fatalities.

Africa CDC June 10 briefing on the COVID-19 response: