Madagascar split after Health Minister requests international help to fight COVID-19

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Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina gave the official launch to a herbal tea claimed to prevent and cure coronavirus./AFP
FILE PHOTO: Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting Covid-Organics, a herbal tonic which he claims can prevent and cure the coronavirus./AFP

Madagascar appeared to be pulling in different directions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic after a statement by the government criticised the Minister of Health for requesting international assistance to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Even as the government has been promoting and distributing a herbal tonic, Covid-Organics, which President Andry Rajoelina claims can prevent and cure the disease, the Health minister Ahmad Ahmad wrote a letter to international agencies appealing for help.

The promotion and distribution of Covid-Organics has continued despite the World Health Organisation opposing it due to a lack of clinical trials to determine its efficacy in fighting the coronavirus.

“Over the past weeks, the Covid-19 epidemic has evolved in a very critical way in Madagascar with notable flare-ups in certain regions, particularly in Antananarivo,” the letter said.

In it, the ministry gave a list of what it termed as its “most urgent needs” which included oxygen bottles, ventilators, face masks, gloves and medical blouses.

However, the government spokeswoman Lalatiana Rakotozafy issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the appeal was a “personal initiative” taken “without consulting” either the government or the president.

“The government would like to express its dismay at the discovery of a letter signed by the minister of public health urgently requesting support in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic,” the statement read.

“It is clear that many crucial points in the management of this health crisis have escaped the vigilance of the minister of public health.”

The apparent split is the latest setback to Madagascar, whose COVID-19 situation began spiraling out of control in recent weeks after it appeared that the island nation had things under control.

A recent exponential rise in daily COVID-19 figures saw the government place Antananarivo under a fresh lockdown until July 26; two months after the restrictions were eased.

Moreover, public hospitals in the capital Antananarivo said on Monday that they have been overwhelmed by the number of patients due to a spike in cases.

Last month, clashes erupted in the eastern town of Toamasina between security forces and protesters, who took to the streets to condemn anti-coronavirus lockdown measures.

Madagascar has so far recorded 8,162 confirmed cases and 69 deaths from the deadly virus.

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