NIGERIA Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials have announced ambitious plans to open 20 test centres in Lagos State as part of an intensified campaign to combat the growing menace of the dreaded coronavirus.
Although the spread of the pandemic has by and large been light in Nigeria with just 407 cases and 12 unfortunate deaths, over the last week, the numbers of affected people have risen significantly. Also, the virus is spreading across the country with 22 of Nigeria’s 36 states at least having one affected person.
Lagos State, however, remains the epicentre of the virus in Nigeria, accounting for about half of all cases and the state government has been working flat out to contain the spread. Lagos was the first state to open an isolation centre and is also home to a test centre but the numbers of people being tested in Nigeria are very few.
As of Monday this week, the NCDC had only conducted 5,000 tests, which is miniscule given Nigeria’s population of 200m. NCDC director-general Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that there are now plans to expand this with the additional Lagos test centres that collect samples from people suspected to have contracted Covid-19.
He added that the samples would be taken to the molecular laboratories in Lagos for testing. Dr Ihekweazu also said door-to-door collection of samples would soon begin in Abuja as part of this nationwide push to defeat the pandemic.
Health minister Dr Osagie Ehanire, added that the problem the country was facing was not the inadequacy of molecular laboratories but how adequate samples would get to the labs for testing. He said the 12 molecular laboratories in the country, whose capacity he put at 1,500, were not conducting enough tests.
Dr Ihekweazu added: “We are trying to change our strategy now and test more people. The testing laboratories have increased but the bottleneck now is getting samples from the right people.
“We are setting up 20 health care facilities in Lagos to collect samples from people that think they have acute respiratory infections and high fever. We are intensifying our surveillance in health, so hospitals around Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) can collect samples from people with high respiratory infections.
“In certain Abuja communities, we are going from door to door to collect samples from people that have acute respiratory infections and we are doing the same in Lagos. In these two places, Lagos and the FCT, where there is high incidence of the infection, we are now going to the patients to collect samples.
“Core centres have improved dramatically and we are urging the people that think they have acute respiratory infections to call us. Go to one of these 20 centres (in Lagos). Don’t go to any other centre. Lagos State will announce them as they are set up and make them accessible to everyone.
According to Dr Ihekweazu, Nigeria has the capacity right now to test 3,000 per day but that capacity is not being fully utilised. He added that this is why the NCDC will focus attention on Lagos and the FCT.