Africa Defense Forum
ADF is a professional military magazine published quarterly by U.S. Africa Command to provide an international forum for African security professionals. ADF covers topics such as counter terrorism strategies, security and defense operations, transnational crime, and all other issues affecting peace, stability, and good governance on the African continent.

New COVID-19 Testing, Treatment Program Launched in Nine Countries


Rapid COVID-19 testing and oral antiviral medication may help end the pandemic, experts say. To enhance such measures on the continent, health ministries in several sub-Saharan African countries are participating in the newly formed COVID Treatment Quick Start Consortium.

Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are participating in the program, according to a report by the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard. Launched in early September, the 18-month project is designed to test and treat those at high risk of contracting the virus.

Claude Muvunyi, director general of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, supports the program, which includes a donation of 100,000 doses of the antiviral Paxlovid pill.

“The Quick Start Consortium will help us to continue to build and strengthen a resilient healthcare system, quickly find the patients who need treatment, and make sure they get needed medicines regardless of socio-economic status,” Muvunyi said on Duke University’s website“Like so many other diseases, COVID-19 won’t go away if you just ignore it.”

A November 2021 study showed that Paxlovid is almost 90% effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk adults when administered within three days of symptom onset.

The pill can be widely used as an at-home treatment to ease the strain on health systems and reduce infections of health care workers. Paxlovid works by blocking a key enzyme that COVID-19 needs in order to replicate. It consists of two medicines, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, which are taken together twice daily for five days.

The initial Paxlovid donation and research is intended to introduce low-cost generic equivalent drugs in partner countries.

“Broad and sustainable systems for rapid testing and diagnosis must be in place to help ensure that treatment courses can reach high-risk patients in need,” Caroline Roan, a senior vice president at the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, said in a news release. “We are committed to working with the global health community to address barriers to access and are proud to provide our oral treatment and financial support to further the objectives of the consortium.”

The World Health Organization reported a 10% increase in coronavirus-related deaths in Africa during one week in September, despite decreased deaths reported in several other regions. COVID-19 cases in Africa are largely driven by the omicron subvariant BA.5. Patients infected by the subvariant typically show milder symptoms than previous strains.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to maintain vigilance against the disease. He compared the campaign to end the pandemic to a marathon, saying that a runner doesn’t stop when they see the finish line.

“She runs harder with all the energy she has left,” Tedros said in a story on the United Nations website. “Now is the worst time to stop running. Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

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