10,000 Nigerians tested as NCDC laments underuse of facilities

BREAKING: Nigeria records another eight new cases of coronavirus, total now 97

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has disclosed that ten thousand Nigerians have been tested so far for Coronavirus and 873 tested positive.

According to the NCDC figures, there are only 648 active cases, 26 deaths recorded and 197 patients have recovered.

Director-General of the NCDC Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing in Abuja on Thursday: "We have a very good strategy around testing.  Until recently, we had about 5,000 test but last week, we have moved from 5,000 to 10,000 tests. We are going to continue to scale up our testing rapidly. We have just got our first set of reagents for high throughput testing.

"We know that the numbers are always thrown around comparing us with South Africa and Ghana, but we are not playing the game of numbers here, these are people's lives – human beings. Before we test anyone, we go through a risk assessment to make sure it is appropriate to test the person."

Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, added: "Every country has its own strategy to combat the coronavirus. In Nigeria, we are not flattening the curve but we are pushing the curve to one side so that we have enough time to prepare our 'not very strong' health system.

"Also, in the beginning we did not have enough reagents, in fact, we carried-out our tests in South Africa. But two months down the line, we can carry out our own tests with the 13 existing NCDC laboratories across the country.

"Concerning the use of rapid test kits, the World Health Organization (WHO), has not validated any of it. They believe that the results are not reliable but it probably gives you a direction. Therefore, there is not enough faith in rapid diagnostic test."

The Minister decried the underutilisation of the 'excess' testing capacity of the country, explaining that even though Nigeria has the capacity to test 1,500 persons daily, daily testing still averages around 600.

According to him, "Today NCDC laboratories have capacity to test 1,500 samples per day in 13 laboratories across the country. However, we are testing on average 600 samples per day because that is all the samples collected and sent for testing. This means that there is a certain underutilisation.

"Factors implicated in the process may include surveillance sample collection and mode of transportation, which can be improved to increase operational efficiency.

"In fact, we have excess capacity for the 13 laboratories that are functioning, but our own strategy is that of smart testing, that is, testing where you feel you will have yield. We have to be very careful about our reagents.

"We are also trying to use our resources as wisely as possible because we have an estimated population of 200 million people, so we have to be ready to cater for all of them.

"This is where a little investment can help. The results of such intensification of efforts can be seen especially in Lagos where improved logistic management increased sample collection and significantly reduced turnaround time.

"As we further increase our testing capacity and accredit more laboratories, an even more robust sample transportation infrastructure will be in place, to promptly convey samples to any of the 13 labs activated so far.

"Nigeria's strategy is to admit all persons who test positive for COVID-19 into designated accredited treatment facilities to contain the spread of the virus and ensure prompt management to forestall complications."

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