Crowd in ICoast destroys coronavirus test centre

Residents in a working-class district of the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan on Sunday destroyed a coronavirus testing centre that was under construction, police and health ministry officials said.

The authorities have already closed shops selling non-essential items as part of measures to limit the spread of the virus

Videos posted on social media, showed several dozen people dismantling the building, some of them shouting: "We don't want it!"

The incident happened in Yopougon district of the city of five million inhabitants, which is the country's commercial capital.

Locals had demonstrated against the centre because they thought it was too close to their homes and right in the middle of a residential district, one police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

But the building, which was still under construction, had never been intended as a treatment centre for virus patients -- only as a testing centre, said a health ministry official, who also asked not to be named.

This was the first violent incident connected to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, which so far appears to have been relatively untouched by the virus, at least according to official figures.

They put the number of cases at 261, with three deaths so far.

Nevertheless, the authorities are trying to increase their capacity to treat the outbreak.

President Alassane Ouattara declared a state of emergency on March 23.

Abidjan has already been placed under quarantine, effectively cut off from the rest of the country, and a nationwide overnight curfew is in force.

Schools, churches and non-essential shops have been closed and gatherings have been banned.

On Saturday, senior health officials recommended that people wear masks in public places to try to slow the spread of the virus.

So far however, the government has not ordered a full lockdown.

Last Tuesday, the government announced a 2.6-billion-euro plan ($2.8 billion) to tackle the economic and social effects of the pandemic, which is forecast to halve the country's growth rate to 3.6 percent in 2020.

de/jj/mtp

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