Challenges in scaling up testing capacity as COVID-19 patients rise
First case: 30 April
Total cases: 405 (as of 16 August 2020)
Total deaths: 7
Schools: Closed (277,099 learners affected)
Flights/Borders: All international passenger flights suspended; only cargo accepted. Sea travel between islands suspended.
Containment measures: Mandatory quarantine for travellers from countries with COVID-19 confirmed cases. COVID-19 negative certificate needed to enter the country. Multiple measures taken to restrict gatherings.
The Comoros registered its first case of a person with COVID-19 on 30 April. Since then, the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 405, with seven deaths, as of 16 August, according to WHO. About a quarter of new COVID-19 patients had returned from neighbouring countries, such as Tanzania and Madagascar. Until the confirmation of the first case, the Government had no testing capacity, which raised alarms of a possible unreported coronavirus outbreak in some of the islands. The first testing centre started operations at the end of April, after the Government informed it had received the equipment and supplies on 23 April. Although the Government has been receiving donations of medical supplies to support the pandemic response, the country is still facing challenges to scale up its testing capacity, according to humanitarians in the country. All passengers arriving in the country are currently required to have a PCR negative test result or must undergo testing on site and quarantined until results are received. All who test negative will be allowed to proceed home while still followed up with by a surveillance team for a period of 14 days.
President Azali Assoumani announced on 26 April an indefinite nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. to strengthen other precautionary measures imposed since 20 March. The country suspended all international commercial passenger flights from 20 March and the National Agency for Maritime Affairs restricted all movements of people coming from any nation that reported a coronavirus outbreak. Sea travels between Comoros’ islands have also been suspended until further notice. All public festivities and gatherings have been suspended until further notice, including any collective prayers at the mosques. Weddings are restricted to no more than 20 people and burials to only family members, relatives of the deceased, and residents of the villages concerned.
On 4 June, the Government informed that WHO Regional Office for Africa deployed a team of 14 experts to support the national human resources in response to COVID-19, following a request from the Minister of Health. The group includes epidemiologists, laboratory managers, pulmonologists, infectologists and resuscitators, among others.