Veiled in face masks, Health Minister Lia Tadesse (MD), Nigussu Tilahun, head of the press secretariat at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Demeke Mekonnen, deputy prime minister, chat. They had just convened, in strict social distancing fashion, inside an assembly hall located adjacent to the Office of the Prime Minister with a spattering of other high-ranking officials and media personnel to discuss the exacerbation of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Ethiopia.

No new regulations came of the meeting, but they announced the launch of a nationwide month-long testing campaign in an effort to “determine the next steps to undertake in the new year,” as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), who led the meeting, posted on his Twitter page.

Shy of half a million tests conducted nationwide and coming as the number of cases has shot up to almost 18,000 by yesterday, Ethiopia continues to lag behind the likes of Kenya and Uganda on a per capita basis. But total tests conducted have grown substantially, outbidding the amount that has been undertaken in Nigeria and Egypt.

Among the courses of action, testing will be useful in predicting the opening of schools and universities in the coming academic year, which was discussed during the meeting. Experiences of other countries were raised, but the matter of passing decisions was postponed until the results of the testing campaign are tallied.

Even if schools were to open, the Prime Minister explained that it would be in sets, starting from the lower grades, as younger people are considered to be less susceptible to the virus.

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