Madagascar’s cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in Toamasina, the country’s second largest city.
The Indian Ocean island nation has registered 527 infections and two deaths, both in Toamasina.
Since Thursday, more than 120 new cases were confirmed, and several bodies were found in the city’s streets though the cause of death was not clear.
“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, spokesperson for the government’s virus taskforce, said in a national broadcast on Sunday.
The government will send 150 soldiers to reinforce Toamasina, maintain order and enforce measures against the coronavirus such as mask wearing and social distancing.
The cabinet also fired Toamasina’s prefect without providing any explanation.
A team was also ordered to distribute a drink based on artemisia, a plant recognised as a treatment against malaria, which the Malagasy authorities claim cures COVID-19.
The potential benefits of this herbal tea, called Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study.
The cabinet has also announced an investigation into the death of a doctor in Toamasina. According to local press, the victim was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday morning.