Hospitals in Madagascar have warned they are overwhelmed after a spike in coronavirus cases in a country where the president has been promoting a herbal drink to treat the virus.

A record 614 new cases have been confirmed in the last day, bringing the total to 8,162 and 69 deaths.

Several African countries have ordered the tonic, called COVID-Organics.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence the drink works against Covid-19.

Hospitals in the capital, Antananarivo, have warned that they are starting to run out of beds.

“We are now only accepting severe cases,” Andohotapenaka Hospital director Nasolotsiry Raveloson is quoted as telling AFP news agency.

Directors at two other hospitals also told the news agency that they were overwhelmed.

On Monday the minister for health wrote an open letter to aid agencies asking for equipment like testing kits, respirators and protective equipment for health workers.

News correspondents say there has been push back from the government’s spokesperson who said it was not the minister’s place to make such a request.

Earlier this month President Andry Rajoelina re-imposed a lockdown on the central region until 26 July, allowing only one person per household to go out for food and medicine.

President Rajoelina has received worldwide attention for promoting the COVID-Organics, which is produced from the artemisia plant – the source of an ingredient used in a malaria treatment – and other Malagasy plants.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against people using untested remedies like this, saying that Africans deserve access to medicines that have gone through proper trials even if they are derived from traditional treatments.

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