The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says additional four test laboratories will be ready next week.
According to NCDC, it will be added to the existing five test labs in the country to scale up testing capacities.
The new labs to be located in Ibadan, Abakaliki, Port Harcourt and Kaduna.
Currently, the five facilities that we have are: Nigerian institute of Medical research in Lagos, Lagos University teaching hospital, Gaduwa NCDC in Abuja, and two research centres in Ede and Irrua in Edo state.
This was disclosed by the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, during an interview on Arise TV, on Friday.
According to him, “In terms of testing, there are two short-term interventions that we are carrying out. First we are using some processed engineering to improve the throughput in our existing labs. In the Abuja lab for example, we have moved to a shift system. So, we are working a 24-hours in three shifts.
“In the next week, we are going to add four new labs to our network. We have worked in Ibadan over the past couple of days and we should activate it today. I have a team that have been in Ibadan for the past two days, then, we will go to Abakaliki where we have an existing lab, then we will go to Port Harcourt and Kaduna. So, these four should be ready in the next week and add to the existing capacity”.
He further added: “We are also going to convert some of the high throughput tests available for HIV. There is a PCR diagnostics that can test a large number of cases at the same time but the technology itself has to be changed and adapted for this new virus.
“That will take two to three weeks, and once we get the reagent for that, then we can do some high throughput testing and test thousands at the same time. But that will not happen until the next 2 to 3 weeks. This is the next strand of expansion that we are working on.
“There are also new diagnostics. There are people working on rapid diagnostics tests kits, and we are hoping that IT can be brought to the market and we will make our purchases and procurement as soon as possible.
“Nigerians are not going to pay for any of these tests; as long as you need it, we will support the test through a public sector fund. Of course, if you want to have the test privately, we don’t have any private provision as at now, but there are groups working on it.
“If you want it done in the convenience of your house or wherever you want, there should be a private sector that can offer that to you. But that does not exist at the moment for any validated care. We are working with a group of private sector colleagues to make this happen in Lagos in the short-term and then in Abuja and spread it to the other cities”.
In a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that currently, we have recorded 65 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, of which 44 are in Lagos, 11 in FCT, 3 in Ogun, 2 in Bauchi and 1 each in Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Osun and Rivers States.
“Of the 65 cases, 40 had immediate travel history to one or more of the coronavirus affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 10 are confirmed close contacts of confirmed cases 6 have neither a recent travel history nor a known contact, 6 were detected on an offshore oil vessel.
“Three (3) persons have been discharged from treatment and we have sadly recorded one fatality. All 61 presently active cases are clinically stable with only mild or moderate symptoms.
“While train stations, land borders and international airports remain closed, precautionary measures are also being taken by the Federal Government to protect our seaports. Currently, only ships that have been at sea for more than 14 days can dock in our ports after crew members have been confirmed negative for COVID-19. An exception to this 14-day restriction are vessels carrying oil and gas products as they require minimal contact.
“The Federal Government also through the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) have also made provisions to bring back essential NCDC staff who have been away on trainings and cannot return to Nigeria due to instituted measures in other countries”
Concerning funds to scale up and expand capacities, interventions and facilities, Ehanire said that the federal government has released N10bn to Lagos State. “The Federal Government of Nigeria has released a N10bn grant to Lagos State to increase its capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Another N5bn special intervention fund has been released to NCDC to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country”.
He added: “One major item in Nigeria’s disease containment strategy is social distancing, which has been repeatedly announced. Directives have thus been issued at national and state level, to limit all large gatherings including religious, social and political gatherings, schools, events etc.
“Some states have put the maximum number of gatherings at 50, but a general order will be announced. Markets have been closed and alternative solutions to the food supply chain created in some states. More measures may need to be instituted by the federal and state government as the situation evolves.
“The inconveniences are regretted, but I urge all citizens to accept and practice them in good faith, as they are for our common good and in the interest of us all.
“The other critical measure we are taking is Contact tracing, which is going on, to identify persons who have been in close contact with confirmed cases. The Federal Ministry of Health is working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, to review response activities and to institute measures to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians.
“The multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by NCDC coordinates it and other national response activities.
“Community tracing is done at the community level and done by those who know the community; So we recruit people from each community to lead the way so that it is not every area that you see absolutely strange faces. We are able to use this method to track down those who may be in need of testing”.
“Those who have had contact with confirmed cases or have returned from overseas travel in the last 14 days, should strictly observe self-isolation, call in, or register on NCDC platforms. Do not leave your house during the self-isolation period.
“If you are on supervised self-isolation, make sure you call in as required and as much as possible, stay in one room. Strictly limit contact with others, for your family’s sake.
“If during self-isolation you develop symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing) or general feeling of unwellness, avoid self-medication and contact NCDC Connect Centre immediately on 0080097000010 or 112,” he said.
About States locking down and the palliative measures the health Minister said: “We are working very well with the National emergency management agency (NEMA), and they are looking at being able to support communities with the necessary needs – essentials.
“The community sense of helping each other is also there. It is helpful when for example within the community, one person takes money from everybody and goes to do the shopping for everybody. This way, not everybody is trooping to the market. This support is necessary in order to reduce exposure to risk”.