US urges ‘transparency’ on Covid-19 statistics in Africa

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KEVIN J. KELLEY

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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New York. The US on Tuesday urged African governments to practice “full transparency” in reporting publicly the number of Covid-19 cases in their respective countries.

The call for full and accurate information on the extent of the pandemic was sounded by Assistant US Secretary of State Tibor Nagy in a teleconference with reporters.

The top US official for Africa was responding to a question as to whether some governments may be downplaying the actual scope of the virus outbreak.

In Tanzania, for example, opposition leaders have challenged the government’s candour following unexplained deaths of three members of Parliament in the past two weeks.

Ambassador Nagy, a veteran Africa diplomat, drew a distinction between governments that act in a “malicious” or “innocent” fashion.

“The intent behind it is very important,” the assistant secretary said without naming countries that the US views as deliberately falsifying coronavirus statistics.

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Ambassador Nagy noted that some governments are grappling with “severe limitations” on information-gathering due to lack of reliable coronavirus test kits.

Testing is also more widely available in urban areas than in rural parts of the continent where most Africans live, he noted.

US embassies throughout Africa “are keeping very close watch on what’s happening in their countries,” Ambassador Nagy said.

Because an effective response to the pandemic requires reliable information, thus “it is critically important for everyone to be as transparent as possible,” he added.

The State Department official focused his remarks on the “generous” assistance the US has provided to Africa on health care matters generally and the Covid-19 outbreak in particular.

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The US has so far contributed a total of $247 million for specific coronavirus-related initiatives in Africa.

That amount comes on top of several billion dollars the US has given in the past 20 years to train African health care workers and to combat diseases such as malaria and Aids, Ambassador Nagy said.

He also took the opportunity of the press briefing to condemn the “deceit” practiced by a powerful country that was left unnamed, although clearly understood to be China.

Ambassador Nagy’s thinly veiled attacks on China’s behaviour in the Covid-19 crisis reflect the openly hostile rhetoric being aimed at Beijing by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.





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