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Kenya to Start Mass Testing for COVID-19 With New Equipment From China

FILE - Kenya's Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe (C) speaks at Mbagathi Hospital during the launch of an isolation and treatment center for coronavirus patients, in Nairobi, Kenya, March 6, 2020.

Kenya's health minister says the country has received masks, tubes, and other medical equipment from China that will enable the country to conduct wider testing for the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Kenya’s Ministry of Health said it will begin mass testing for COVID-19 in hopes of controlling the spread of the virus.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said Friday that a plane from China brought equipment that will help authorities carry out the plan.

“On this flight, we have been informed that we have got half a million three-ply masks. We have got 200,000 testing and sampling tubes, and this is a very important thing. The 200,000 sampling tubes are key to our ability to mass test Kenyans. Without these sampling tubes we were not going to be able to start our mass testing capability but with these tubes now, we are able to fast track,” Kagwe said.

The flight also brought 4,000 shoe covers, which will be used by front line health workers, and 76,000 N95 masks and face visors.

Kagwe said a consignment of ventilators is also on its way from China.

Friday morning, the number of COVID-19 cases in Kenya rose to 246, after 12 more people tested positive.

High risk areas prioritized

The first phase of the mass testing campaign will prioritize high-density areas such as slums and high-risk areas such as hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Kagwe said that some of the newly-arrived equipment was what the Ministry of Health “desperately needed” to kick-start the mass testing operation.

“As we stand right now, at this hour, we have already tested about 450 samples. Out of this, we have already got 12 positive cases and we have not finished the day. And five are hotel workers and another four from our contact tracing capabilities. What this tells you is that we need to really start the testing capacity so that the contacts of those people who are positive can also be tested and therefore we can be able to maintain and contain the pandemic,” Kagwe said.

As positive cases continue to rise in Africa, the World Health Organization has warned that the continent's countries are not getting accurate figures on the extent of the outbreak, due to a lack of capabilities to conduct mass testing.

US has also sent supplies

The United States, China and other countries have ramped up assistance to African countries, supplying critical medical supplies to various countries on the continent.

South Africa, which has the highest number of coronavirus infections in sub-Saharan Africa, rolled out mass testing earlier this month.

There are now more than 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases continent wide.