It said the WHO African region now has six laboratories where the disease can be diagnosed and that upgrading the laboratories to diagnose the new coronavirus is part of the ongoing efforts by the agency to help African countries prepare against the outbreak.
The six laboratories are located in Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Given the population in Africa, it would have been expected that the region would have more laboratories with the capacity to diagnose the disease.
However, the number African countries with laboratories of high- tech diagnostic capacities are still relatively few. The region has been struggling with health security and containing infectious diseases for decades and the problem still persist.
The availability of six laboratories to test can still be considered as a plus as the region had only two laboratories with the capacity to diagnose the disease as at the time it broke out.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said a new virus is always a challenge and most laboratories in Africa lack the key material they need to perform tests on a novel pathogen.
Ms Moeti said the agency will also be sending kits to 29 laboratories in the region.
“This will ensure they have diagnostic capacity for novel coronavirus and can support testing samples from neighbouring countries, ” she said.
The World Health Organisation is also sending equipments, manpower and financial aids to other African countries to gear up the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the novel coronavirus which is now a global pandemic.