Protesters Attack Ivory Coast Coronavirus Test Center Believing It Would House Infected Patients

Police in the Ivory Coast have been battling with protesters who attacked a coronavirus testing facility in a residential area, fearing it was a treatment center where infected patients would be brought.

The violence erupted in the country's largest city of Abidjan on Sunday, and continued into Monday. More than 100 protesters began dismantling the test center, according to Reuters, prompting police to use tear gas to try and disperse them.

The demonstrators feared that the facility would accept sick patients, thus spreading the pandemic through the Yopougon area of the city. The country has thus far recorded 323 confirmed COVID-19 cases and three deaths, and has been under a state of emergency since March 23.

France 24 said the protesters began tearing down the facility on Sunday while building barricades of burning tyres nearby. Police were deployed to the area on Monday to meet demonstrators, who pelted officers with stones before being dispersed by tear gas.

One protester, Joel Blehi, said, "They want to kill us. We don't want this centre here."

A police spokesperson blamed miscommunication for the unrest, noting that the facility was not intended to house infected patients. "There's been a lack of communication," Charlemagne Bleu said. "It's more like a testing centre for residents." Bleu added that four people were arrested during the clashes, but that no injuries were reported.

The Yopougon center is among several being built in Abidjan, enabling a voluntary mass COVID-19 testing program under the health ministry. The 4.3 million-person city has already been placed under quarantine and cut off from the rest of the country.

Elsewhere schools, places of worship and the majority of shops closed. Residents are also under a night-time curfew. The government has not yet introduced a full national lockdown, but on Saturday officials said that people going out in public should wear masks to slow the spread of infection, the BBC reported.

Ivory Coast officials are facing a grim economic forecast thanks to the pandemic. The country's economic growth rate is predicted to halve to 3.6 percent this year. The government has announced a $2.8 billion stimulus package to try and insulate the country against the financial impact of the pandemic.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
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Ivory Coast police officers fire smoke grenades during clashes with residents at a demonstration against the construction of a COVID-19 coronavirus screening center in Abidjan, on April 6, 2020. ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images/Getty