Police, protesters clash over Ivory Coast coronavirus test centre

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Ivory Coast police clashed with protesters dismantling a half-built coronavirus testing centre concerned people using the facility would spread the epidemic in their district.

More than 100 residents in Yopougon, a neighbourhood in the commercial capital Abidjan, started pulling apart the hangar-like structure on Sunday and built barricades of burning tyres.

A crowd returned on Monday, throwing rocks at police who used tear gas to disperse people.

“They want to kill us. We don’t want this centre here,” said protester Joel Blehi sheltering after a gas canister was fired in his direction.

Police said the hostility arose from a misunderstanding that patients with COVID-19 would be treated at the centre.

“There’s a lack of communication. It’s more a testing centre for residents,” police spokesman Charlemagne Bleu said.

The violence is the first sign of community resistance to the coronavirus response in Ivory Coast, where authorities closed schools, places of worship and most shops and imposed a night-time curfew. The country registered 261 confirmed cases and three deaths to date.

The centre is one of several being built in Abidjan for voluntary mass coronavirus testing, the health ministry said.

No-one was hurt in the clashes and four arrests were made, Bleu said.