From Easing Lockdowns to Scaling-Up Community-Based COVID-19 Screening, Testing, and Contact Tracing in Africa – Shared Approaches, Innovations, and Challenges to Minimize Morbidity and Mortality

Jean B Nachega, Ashraf Grimwood, Hassan Mahomed, Geoffrey Fatti, Wolfgang Preiser, Oscar Kallay, Placide K Mbala, Jean-Jacques T Muyembe, Edson Rwagasore, Sabin Nsanzimana, Daniel Ngamije, Jeanine Condo, Mohsin Sidat, Emilia V Noormahomed, Michael Reid, Beatrice Lukeni, Fatima Suleman, Alfred Mteta, Alimuddin Zumla
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The arrival of COVID-19 to the African continent resulted in a range of locally relevant lockdown measures, which curtailed the spread of SARS-CoV-2 but caused economic hardship for large sections of the population. African countries now face difficult choices regarding easing of lockdowns and sustaining effective public health control measures and surveillance.  Control of the COVID-19 pandemic will require efficient community screening, testing, contact tracing, and behavioral change interventions, adequate resources, and a well-supported, community-based team of trained, protected personnel.  We discuss COVID-19 screening-testing-contact tracing approaches used in selected African countries and the need for shared, affordable, innovative methods to overcome challenges and minimize mortality rates. This crisis presents a unique opportunity to align COVID-19 services with those already in place for HIV, TB, Malaria, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through mobilization of Africa's inter-professional healthcare workforce to contain the pandemic. By addressing the challenges, the detrimental effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on African citizens can be minimized.