Africa has set out to do 20 million laboratory tests for COVID-19 by November, said the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. 

The announcement was made by John Nkengasong, director of the Addis Ababa-based Africa CDC, during a weekly virtual news briefing on the novel coronavirus. He was joined by the African Union commissioners of social affairs as well as infrastructure and energy.

The 20 million tests would be done as part of a campaign the African Union just launched: Africa against COVID-19 – Saving Lives, Economies and Livelihoods. “We are seeing overall a positive trend,” said Nkengasong, referring to what he described as “a slow bending of the curve” over the past two weeks.

He said over the last week the infection rate has fallen almost in half from 13% to 7%.

“We approach the trend with cautious optimism,” he said.

“We still don’t know the true extent of exposure to the virus on the continent.”

He said the continent has also seen other good news over the past week: A rise in the rate of recoveries from 72% to 76%.

On Thursday, the Africa CDC confirmed almost 1.15 million cases, 26,618 deaths, and 870,568 recoveries.

Tourism needs jump-start

At the briefing, African Union Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure Amani Abou-Zeid said Africa has already lost $25 billion in tourism revenues and $8 billion in revenues from the aviation industry to the pandemic.

A joint continental strategy such as the campaign just launched, she said, is needed to find financial resources to offset these “huge” losses.

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