Despite only having seven doctors for every 100,000 people, Senegal has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC’s Mayeni Jones and Naomi Scherbel-Ball look at how the country has managed to keep Covid-19 in check.
“When the first case came, we were very anxious and I was angry because it was an imported case,” says Dr Khardiata Diallo, who co-ordinates the epidemic treatment centre at Fann Hospital in the capital, Dakar.
“We worried that we lacked equipment, for the treatment of coronavirus there were just 12 beds with limited oxygen supplies for the whole country.”
That was in late February when a Frenchman had returned to Dakar from a skiing holiday with a fever, sore throat and headache.
He was Senegal’s first case of Covid-19, the second reported case in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Diallo, who was part of the team that treated the country’s single Ebola case during the West African outbreak of 2014 as well as other cholera outbreaks over the last 15 years, knew they needed to act quickly to contain the pandemic.
Free 24-hour testing
Her colleagues at the prestigious Institut Pasteur in the Dakar, which in February was one of just two laboratories in Africa that were able to test for coronavirus, trained staff from dozens of other countries on how to test.
By April, 43 countries on the African continent were able to diagnose Covid-19 effectively.
Today the lab in Dakar’s central Plateau district has a 24-hour operation and testing has been expanded across the country.
Tests for those with symptoms are free and results are released in eight hours.
While there have been concerns over low testing rates across the continent, the Africa Centre for Disease Control is supporting countries to ramp up testing levels and there are hopes that cheap self-testing diagnostic kits could help that effort.
The Institut Pasteur has been crucial to this effort, with its chief virologist Amadou Sall partnering with UK-based firm Mologic to develop two home test kits.
Dr Sall says the manufacturing of the antibody test has already begun and they should be released in the coming weeks.
It will work like a pregnancy test, costing close to $1 (£.80) with results in just 10 minutes.
The home test that will show if someone currently has coronavirus has been delayed and is now being validated by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, but there are hopes it will still be out before the end of the year.
Higher levels of testing should also help with early diagnosis.