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TEMPERATURE CHECK

Africa’s broken healthcare systems have an opportunity in Covid-19

A nurse demonstrates how to activate a respirator in Nairobi.
Reuters/Baz Ratner
Gearing up.

The African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention opened its doors in January 2017. The health agency was created on the heels of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, which had killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa in two years. Designed to bolster African countries’ ability to respond to outbreaks, the African CDC is now central to the continent’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Factors such as demographics and limited travel comparative to other regions have helped to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Africa. But decisiveness on the part of governments, borne from experience with outbreaks like Ebola, is a key reason why the continent has seen fewer confirmed cases and deaths than other regions.

Governments have used strict lockdowns to try to gauge the extent of the outbreak through testing, and to ready hospitals for a deluge of sick patients. Now, as they reopen, they will start to see if those preparations were sufficient: South Africa is seeing its cases climb, Nigeria has reported numerous deaths in its northern city of Kano, and Mauritania saw its case numbers jump from 8 to 131 in a week.

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