Tanzania’s assertion its COVID-19 tests faulty rejected

The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday rejected an assertion by Tanzania’s president that coronavirus tests it supplied are faulty.

Tanzania’s government spokesman said a team was conducting investigations on the laboratory that conducted the tests, and the outcome will be made public once complete. The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed confidence in the tests.

On Sunday, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said the imported test kits were faulty after they had returned positive results on a goat and a pawpaw – among several non-human samples submitted for testing, with technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins.

The next day, the head of the national health laboratory in charge of testing was suspended. The president did not say why the authorities had been initially suspicious of the tests.

“The tests that Tanzania is using, we know they are working very well,” John Nkengasong told journalists.

The Africa CDC, along with the Jack Ma Foundation, a charity founded by the Chinese billionaire, supplied the tests, Nkengasong said.

Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, has donated thousands of tests kits, masks and protective gear to African nations and the equipment is being used across the continent. No other countries have made public complaints about the tests.

“We are very instrumental in training, providing training to nearly all countries and providing them with test kits. We’ve also in the last couple of weeks and months distributed tests from the Jack Ma Foundation that have been validated and proven to be very, very reliable,” Nkengasong said.

Hassan Abbas, Tanzania’s chief government spokesman, said the government had formed a team of experts to examine the lab that conducted the tests, and it would give the outcome of the results once completed.

“What the president said was based on initial tests run by using animals … to test the veracity of the test results,” Abbas said.

“Our worry was based on empirical findings. Once the team finalises its work we will know the gravity of the lapses in the machines.”

Tanzania, where places of worship remain open, has at least 480 confirmed cases and 18 deaths, the fourth highest case load in Eastern Africa. But the data is from Sunday, the most recent day the government released figures. -Reuters

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