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COVID-19: Nigeria total testing capacity now 50,000 —Ihekweazu

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control [NCDC] has announced that Nigeria’s total testing capacity for the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] is now about 50,000.

NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, while speaking at the daily briefing of the PTF in Abuja, yesterday, said:

“On the Roche equipment, what we have at the moment in the country as we speak, is a capacity to test about 50,000.

‘’This is with the conventional RT-PCR and the new Roche equipment that we have launched today (yesterday). So, with every new laboratory that we have, we just set up a laboratory in Sokoto, it means we have to provide them with the logistics and everything they need to collect samples and we are looking to do this in 36 plus one states.

“The good thing about the new Roche equipment we are starting to work with today is that it eliminates the need for certain things like the extraction kits. So, we can actually do a lot more work in a short time.

‘’If we had all the samples in the laboratories, if all the collections happen from the states, we can do up to 900 or a thousand tests in a day. Really, there is a lot of capacity to test now, the challenge is to bring in the samples quickly and get the equipment working..

“Within the first 12 hours of the first confirmed case, we had already deployed a national response team to Kano to support the state government’s efforts. We now have a total of 15 people in Kano and we will continue scaling the number of people supporting Kano State until we get to the appropriate number.

“Just 10 days ago, I announced the activation of the molecular laboratory at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital but unfortunately, we had an incident where the laboratory was contaminated and biosafety measures had to be strengthened.

‘’So, in the interest of all the healthcare workers in Kano, especially in the teaching hospital, we had to pause and shut down that laboratory for a few days and that was exactly what we did. We have been working together with our colleagues to reactivate this laboratory but we have to do it safely.

“In the last 72 hours, we sent another team from the National Reference Laboratory of the NCDC and they have worked day and night over the weekend to reactivate that laboratory and I am happy to announce that the laboratory will start working this (Monday) afternoon (yesterday) and start testing samples again as they should be. This has not been easy, by any stretch of imagination.’’

Ihekweazu also asked states to collect more samples from people who meet the case definition for testing, saying there was no need playing with figures.

“There are only four states at the moment that have not reported a case in Nigeria: Cross River, Kogi, Nasarawa and Yobe. We are looking at the number of samples collected from these states.

‘’We are not satisfied with the number of samples collected. We need to test more, but to test more, we need to collect more and that collection part is the responsibility of states and their public health teams.

“We want to really encourage every state in Nigeria, you cannot hide this. Eventually, it will emerge. It is better we understand what is happening early than leave it till we start hearing stories of death.”

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said:

“The PTF shall continue to pursue the strategy of aggressive testing, detection, isolation, contact tracing, care and management. Similarly, non-pharmaceutical measures will be enhanced.

“Over the last four weeks, we made appreciable progress but we are not yet out of the woods because a lot more is required to be done.

“Nigerians at all levels must take responsibility for our actions, adopt behavioural modification, ensure compliance with advisories and provide guidance to our followers and youths.”

Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, expressed concern at the increasing wave of community transmission, which he attributed to the non-compliance with containment protocols as well as treatment of patients in unaccredited facilities.

He said: “The rising number of cases is of concern to all, but there is evidence of increasing in-country community transmission which to a large extent is a result of non-compliance with lockdown orders and other non-medical interventions.”

National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, urging states not to compete with figures, said: “With regard to other issues particularly as it relates to states chief executives, I am, on behalf of the PTF, appealing to state governments to please continue to support the existing structures, particularly the state Emergency Operation Centres EOCs and their chief executives as well as their staff.

’These people are on the front line of the pandemic. They need to be supported 100 percent. Specifically, we will like to re-emphasize that there is no limit to testing when it comes to COVID-19.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouk, dismissed reports alleging that her ministry supplied poisonous rice to states in the South-West.

She said: “This rice was handed over to us by the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, and was assessed by NAFDAC which issued a clearance before the goods were released for onward distribution to the states. So, as far as we are concerned, this rice was certified and is fit for human consumption.

“We had an issue in Oyo State, which was officially reported this morning (yesterday) but two or three days ago, we saw news flying around that all the rice we took to the South western part of this country is bad, that Lagos has taken its own to the lagoon and other states have rejected theirs.

“I want to state here categorically that, that is fake news. It is not true. Even as of this afternoon (yesterday), I spoke with the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, and he assured me that the ones he received in Ekiti and other states are in good condition.”

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