The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it has tested about 7,000 persons for coronavirus (COVID-19) so far
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja, at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
He added 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 6pm to announce the number of tests for that week.”
Speaking in an interview on a cable TV today, 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.
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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 Lagos and Abuja.
“We are also converting the GeneXpert for Tuberculosis and HIV for COVID-19 testing. The equipment are 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 tests kits, a lot of antigen, antibodies testing don’t work. Many countries haven’t started, 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, Dr. 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 capacity such as engaging the private sector to outsource and diversify sample collection sites and improve logistic support.