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Coronavirus: Ivory Coast protesters target testing centre

Man standing in front of a fireImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Fake stories about coronavirus have led to widespread distrust of health officials

Protesters in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan, have destroyed a coronavirus centre that was being built in the district of Yopougon.

Residents said it was being built in a crowded residential area, too close to their homes.

Videos on social media show people tearing apart the centre with their bare hands, smashing construction materials on the ground.

Some appeared to be hurling metal poles into a truck.

The health ministry said the building was never intended as a treatment centre, only as a testing facility.

Although, like many African countries, Ivory Coast has had relatively few confirmed coronavirus cases, it has imposed a lockdown in Abidjan and a nationwide curfew.

On Saturday, health officials urged people to wear masks to try to slow the spread of the virus.

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Media captionCoronavirus in Africa: Debunking fake news and myths around Covid-19

The hostile response towards the testing centres is reminiscent of attitudes during Ebola outbreaks in West and Central Africa when some people attacked health workers, suspicious that they were bringing the disease to their communities, rather than offering crucial medical care.

Last week, two French doctors sparked fury by suggesting that an existing tuberculosis vaccine could be tested on African people to see if it cured coronavirus.

The doctors’ words have fuelled existing fears that African people are to be used as guinea pigs to test a new coronavirus vaccine, though there is no evidence to support this claim.

Other widespread myths – such as black skin supposedly being resistant to Covid-19, or pepper soup and black tea some providing a cure – have also been debunked.

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