Algeria’s health ministry has said hospitals in the North African nation can use chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus.
However, the statement specifies that the drug should be used to treat “certain cases” of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, in accordance with “specific medical protocol”.
Chloroquine is one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs – though it is no longer recommended in much of Africa because of the resistance built up to it by the malaria parasites.
In treating malaria patients, the drug has been used to reduce fever and inflammation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that so far there is no definitive evidence of its effectiveness when treating Covid-19, but it is part of the continuing trials.
“Chloroquine seems to block the coronavirus in lab studies. There’s some anecdotal evidence from doctors saying it has appeared to help,” says James Gallagher, BBC health correspondent.
Last week, there was confusion over whether the US had approved the drug to treat coronavirus. But the body licensing medicines in the US said it was still being considered.
Seventeen people have died of Covid-19 in Algeria, which currently has 230 cases of coronavirus, 54% of them in the province of Blida, south of the capital Algiers.
Last week, the government closed all borders, banned flights and ferries as well as suspending public transport between cities.
It has also sent 50% of the work force on paid leave for two weeks, ordering them to stay in their homes.
Private businesses have been promised state financial assistance to compensate for their loss in wages paid to their employees and workers.
In neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia, which are also in lockdown, the army has been deployed to enforce social distancing and the closure of shops and businesses deemed to be unessential by the authorities.