Madagascar to deploy soldiers, doctors to eastern city amid COVID-19 fears

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Police officers patrol and search for possible lawbreakers, in downtown Antananarivo on April 27, 2020. - Madagascar police on April 27, 2020, sanctioned citizens caught outside without face coverings by forcing them to sweep pavements, law enforcement officials said. Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has made it compulsory to wear face masks outdoors in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, as well as in the cities of Fianarantsoa and Toamasina, the curb the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by RIJASOLO / AFP) (Photo by RIJASOLO/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Police officers patrol and search for possible lawbreakers, in downtown Antananarivo. (Photo by RIJASOLO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Malagasy government will deploy soldiers and doctors to the eastern city of Toamasina, where two people died of COVID-19, following the discovery of several bodies in the streets.

About 150 soldiers will be sent to Madagascar’s second largest city with orders to ensure adherence to health measures to contain the virus’ spread and maintain order.

The order came following a special cabinet meeting held on Sunday to deliberate the state of affairs in the city.

Madagascar has reported more than 100 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday and the cause of the deaths has not yet been established.

“Doctors must carry out thorough examinations to see if these deaths are caused by another illness or if they are really due to severe acute respiratory problems which is the critical form of COVID-19,” Professor Hanta Marie Danielle Vololontiana, a spokesperson for the government’s COVID-19 task force said.

The cabinet also dismissed the head of Toamasina without any reasons being given and ordered an investigation into the death of a doctor who, according to local media, was admitted in hospital after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday.

In addition to these actions, a team was also dispatched to distribute a drink, Covid-Organics, which Malagasy authorities purport can cure COVID-19.

Covid-Organics, a herbal tonic, is produced from the artemisia plant – the source of an ingredient which is used in a malaria treatment – and other plants from Madagascar.

Though the effects of the tonic have not yet been scientifically proven, the African Union has since opened discussions with Madagascar aimed at exploring the safety and efficiency of the herbal remedy. The technical data is expected to be reviewed by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

As of May 24, Madagascar has recorded 488 COVID-19 cases and two deaths, both in Toamasina, according to the Africa CDC.

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