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Rise in Confirmed Ghana Covid-19 Cases Shows Need for "Dramatic" Increase in Testing in Africa

Commentary7th May 2020

Responding to the latest figures from Ghana, showing a 42.5 per cent increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past five days, the Tony Blair Institute’s Regional Director for West Africa Kate Dooley, who is leading the Institute’s Africa-wide coronavirus response management work, said:

“This sharp increase in confirmed positive tests underlines the need for a dramatic increase in Covid-19 testing in Africa.

“While Ghana is leading Africa with the highest tests per million population, they too face constraints which lead to data lags and bulk reporting such as we are seeing this week, which make it harder to take timely action to contain the spread. As this uptick comes just two weeks since the government eased the partial lockdown in Ghana, the Tony Blair Institute issupporting the Government of Ghana as they analyse the new results to understand what this information tells them about ongoing Covid transmission in Ghana.

“It is a reminder that there are not enough tests being carried out in Africa because governments are constrained by the lack of testing capacity, particularly adequate supplies of testing and extractor kits, as global competition has left them in scarce supply.

“Covid-19 is challenging leaders throughout the world but the situation in Africa is particularly complex. African countries cannot sustain a prolonged lockdown and their leaders are preparing to restart their economies. Governments like that in Ghana know that easing lockdowns will mean ongoing Covid transmission. But they also know that prolonged lockdowns will exacerbate poverty and hunger and lead to long-term social and economic decline. Constraints on testing are depriving these governments of the accurate, real-time information they need to make the best decisions they can for their people.

“As the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last week, ramping up African countries’ capacity to test their populations must be an urgent priority for governments and the international community.

“We applaud Ghana’s enhanced community surveillance approach which is actively screening and testing communities. Maintaining this approach should help government to catch up with transmission and means that they are reaching possible contacts early in the process and can offer support and services to affected people before symptoms become severe.”

What TBI Is Doing on Testing:

Teams from the Tony Blair Institute are working with governments across Africa to source the testing equipment they need to get the job done.

TBI is also now supporting the Africa CDC directly by embedding Institute staff to enhance human resourcing at Africa CDC as it works rapidly to address gaps on testing and other critical medical supplies needed across the continent.

We are also identifying tech innovations that can help track the disease more effectively and identify the hotspots to help stop the spread of the disease.

About the Institute’s Work in Africa on Covid-19:

Since the confirmation of cases across Africa, the Institute has received requests to repurpose teams to advise on the crisis-response systems needed and to embed staff within their operations. This is currently being provided for 10 African presidents, two city mayors and a county administration, making TBI advice available to nearly 20 African presidents in total and also offering advice and support on the required economic response in around six African governments, to date.

The focus of TBI’s work varies according to the needs on the ground. Some current examples include:

  • Advising on overhauling the national emergency hotline in Burkina Faso

  • Helping to identify critical supply needs for PPE, respirators, ventilators and test kits as well as supply solutions across Africa

  • Providing analysis and insights on the evolution of the pandemic in Africa to offer rapid lessons to leaders

  • Supporting crisis-response coordinators in several presidencies to establish crisis-management structures, including in The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Togo

  • Supporting the repurposing of textile manufacturing operations in Ethiopia to produce PPEs

Repositioning the Institute to focus on Covid-19

The Institute has always existed to support governments and works with many around the world. The Government Advisory Practice is directly supporting leaders in their on-the-ground fight against Covid-19, and the Policy Futures unit is delivering analysis and advice to help countries mitigate economic impact, source essential equipment, harness the power of technology and position themselves for the rebuilding to come.

TBI is also:

  • Producing regular Covid-19 snapshots to aid information flow – initially covering public health, economy, society, technology

  • Developing a global map of economic interventions/responses

  • Mapping global tech tools and sharing best practice

  • Publishing material on relevant topics as part of its suite of advisory content

  • Providing Institute spokespeople across the full spectrum of issues

Kate Dooley

Kate Dooley is the regional director for West Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. She leads the Institute’s teams in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and The Gambia.

Before taking up the regional director post, Kate was the Institute’s country head for Sierra Leone from 2014 and for The Gambia from mid-2017.

As regional director, Kate supports the country heads and their teams to develop and implement tailored strategies to support governments to deploy more effective governance practices, to accelerate implementation of their development priorities.

In Sierra Leone, Kate led the repurposing of the team in 2014 to support the government’s Ebola emergency response, working closely with then President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office to reform the response systems. Kate expanded the team significantly to accelerate delivery of the post-Ebola recovery plan, including through support to the President’s Delivery Team.

In The Gambia, Kate led the Institute’s first outreach to President Adama Barrow and his team shortly after his inauguration in early 2017 and formally established a new project there in July 2017.


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