The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, disclosed that it has carried out about 7,000 tests for coronavirus (COVID-19) to date.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, the director-general of the NCDC, who made this known on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Abuja, at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, said that henceforth, it will release to the public the numbers of tests done weekly.
According to him, “With respect to the number of persons that have been tested, so far, we are just around 7,000 but we want to release the numbers and potentially even give a breakdown of what we tested in every lab within the network. We have agreed every Friday by 6 pm to announce the number of tests for that week.”
Speaking in an interview on a cable TV on Thursday, the NCDC boss explained that it is doing all within its capacity to increase testing capacity, while urging private facilities to come on board and be added to their network of laboratories, provided they meet its criteria.
He said: “We have been hearing a lot of people say we should test more and sincerely we want to, but unfortunately we have to work with what we have. Every day, we are testing more. We have intensified efforts in Lagos and Abuja.
“We are also converting the GeneXpert for Tuberculosis and HIV for COVID-19 testing. The equipment is ready, but there’s been a global bottleneck on reagents. So, we have been working very hard with our partners to unblock that.
“As soon as we have our hands on it, we will include it in our testing processes. These are not issues that money can solve; it is a global shortage of reagents. As soon as we get these in, we will be able to scale radically our testing capabilities.
“With regards to the use of test kits, a lot of antigen, antibodies testing don’t work. Many countries haven’t started, the reason being that you need to have a test that you know works. So, until we get there, we are stuck with this PCR testing. We are now going to move to some high throughput mechanisms.”
Concerning carrying along universities in the drive to add to the body of research on COVID-19, Ihekweazu said: “Universities don’t need to be carried along because this is their core mandate. Nobody should wait to be carried along in this work; everybody should come forward and bring out their ideas.
“The primary institute at the Federal level is the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research in Lagos. You will see their works around sequencing. They have been very proactive around this. They will be leading on the federal side for research, but that is the core mandate for universities.”
Meanwhile, the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, during the PTF briefing said: “The national testing capacity has been increased to 3,000 per day in 13 molecular laboratories nationwide activated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
The target this week is to significantly increase the national testing capacity further; 2 more laboratories are scheduled to come online in Borno and Sokoto States.
“States have been supplied sample collection kits and are encouraged to develop innovative methods to improve testing capabilities such as engaging the private sector to outsource and diversify sample collection sites and improve logistic support.
“This next phase of our strategy, due to the available evidence of community transmission in Nigeria, now focuses on the community.
There will be more community testing and social mobilization at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose, to reduce risk of transmission.”
“I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality.
“Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorized treatment of COVID-19, run the risk of being shut down for decontamination,” he added.