Ethiopia Starts Covid Test Campaign; Cases Spike After Protests

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Days of protests and violence in Ethiopia following the assassination of a prominent musician in June likely caused a spike in coronavirus cases, prompting the government to start a month-long testing campaign.

The government plans to carry out 400,000 tests in the next month. Ethiopia has done close to 430,000 tests since the first case was reported in the country in mid-March.

“Following the conflicts and protests of the recent weeks, we are seeing the equivalent of monthly case numbers in just a few days,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on the state broadcasting network.

Protests following the murder of Hachalu Hundessa led to the death of about 200 people, the destruction of property and thousands of arrests.

Ethiopia recorded 915 new cases on July 31, up from 157 the previous month, bringing total cases to nearly 18,000 and deaths to 284, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

“This month’s test campaign will be the basis for decisions we make in the upcoming year,” Abiy said. Ethiopia’s calendar year starts on Sept. 11. Africa’s second-most-populous country expects locally produced testing kits to be available in October, according to the prime minister.

“If, at the end of the month, the curve flattens, then we know what decision to make about reopening schools, for example -- that’s why the work this month is vital,” Abiy said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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