Algeria launches coronavirus test kits production

Algeria launches coronavirus test kits production, extends lockdown until end of May
3 min read
Algeria is manufacturing test kits for Covid-19 as authorities attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
Coronavirus is spreading across North Africa and the Middle East [Getty]

Algeria has started manufacturing rapid test kits for the novel coronavirus, as the country extends lockdown measures until the end of the month.

The North African country is producing testing kits with a detection time of 15 minutes and a production capacity of 200,000 units per week, the government has revealed.

A laboratory in the capital Algiers is developing the test kits in partnership with Canadian and Jordanian firms, junior minister in charge of pharmaceutical production Lotfi Benbahmed said on state television, without naming the two foreign partners.

Algerian authorities allocated $100 million to import medical equipment and pharmaceutical products to counter the virus, and it has received medical donations from China in the past few days.

Algeria has so far reported 5,891 confirmed infections, with 507 deaths and 2,841 recoveries.

Curfew extension

Algeria announced it will extend lockdown measures by 15 days until 29 May, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerrad said on Tuesday.

This comes as the government last month decided to extend restrictions until 14 May, including a night curfew, the closure of education facilities like schools and universities, as well as places of worship.

The country has been subject to a nationwide curfew, as the government ordered the closure of most businesses and suspended public transport and air travel in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Certain businesses, such as clothing shops and bakeries had initially been allowed to open but had been forced shut last month after failing to observe social distancing measures.

“Some behaviour that may take us back are to be avoided,” Djerrad said.

Crackdown on Hirak protesters

The Algerian regime is exploiting coronavirus to defeat a protest movement that has shaken it to its core over the last year, analysts say.

Despite protesters deciding to halt their weekly gatherings since the start of the public health crisis, repression of regime opponents has persisted.

Security forces have targeted young bloggers, independent journalists, online media and activists from the "Hirak" protest movement.

Rapidly adopted laws aimed at preventing the dissemination of false news and hate speech have further stoked fears of an orchestrated campaign to repress free expression.

The new laws "aim to repress citizens' freedom of expression," said lawyer and activist Abdelouhab Chiter, a lecturer at the University of Bejaia.

A law on "spreading false information", he said, "was debated and passed by parliament in a single sitting, in the absence of almost half of its members".

Read More: How coronavirus has transformed education in the Middle East

Akram Belkaid, a journalist for the Oran daily, warned of "a return to the iron fist as in the 1970s".

"Hirak won the first leg of the game," he said.

"The regime is on course to win the second leg, and its true goal is to prevent any further rematches being held at all - or in other words, to prevent protests reoccurring once the pandemic has been overcome."

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