Nigeria now has 11 molecular diagnostic laboratories for testing coronavirus (COVID-19), with the activation of two additional laboratories in Kano and Jos.
The federal government is also working on compensation packages to motivate healthcare workers who are in the frontline in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also to recognise their sacrifices to ensure that every Nigerian is safe.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known on Monday in Abuja, at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, explained that with the increased capacity to test, the country is likely to record more positive cases of the virus.
According to him, “We now have 11 COVID-19 functional laboratories in Nigeria, following 2 activated in Kano and Jos. We have pre-positioned laboratory testing sample and collection kits nationwide.
“The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), through the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) continues to support response activities in States with new outbreaks, through timely deployment of Rapid Response teams.
“The Accreditation team has finalized protocols for use in accrediting isolation and treatment centres, to assure maintenance of standards. Four centers have been accredited in the Abuja metropolis, which I inspected over the weekend and certified as ready to use. The FMoH and FCT shall be meeting to harmonize their functions.
“The case management team has concluded training of healthcare workers in Abuja who will be attending to patients in these isolation and treatment centres”.
He further added: “I enjoin States to adhere to the standards advised by the accreditation team and also again advise my professional colleagues that it is very risky to be treating coronavirus patients in private homes or in their hospital establishments without IPC training and accreditation. The hazard is serious with regard to self-infection and cross infection, evidence of which has manifested in some States.
“The PTF is working on compensation packages to recognize the sacrifices and to further motivate the brave healthcare workers, who directly take on the coronavirus challenge. It goes beyond the well-known Group Life Insurance for public servants, the routine workmen’s compensation and health workers hazard allowance.
“Details of the new package will be made available later, but we must laud the offer of free Life insurance for 5,000 health workers, donated by a private Insurance Company”.
Concerning the low confirmed cases over the weekend, Ehanire said, “The way we are right now, the figures you see for new infections will fluctuate. It is not going to be constantly the same; you can see it rise sharply and come down by a bit.
“We are making the testing more efficient and increasing the volume of testing, so we expect to find more cases. We are doing more of smart testing – that is, testing that targets where you are most likely to find the cases.
“Finally, looking at the community transmission, if you’re in the neighborhood where there are large number of people who have tested positive, or if you have symptoms that are suggestive of the infection – dry cough, fever, even though you can’t explain where it came from; you have not been abroad, you have not been in touch with anyone who has been abroad, you can also be eligible for testing. What’s important is that if you test positive you need to go into isolation for the prescribed period.
“There are people who feel very well and have no symptoms, but are well able to transmit the infection. those are the ones we have troubles with.
“What is going to happen very soon is that the NCDC is preparing to have agreements with certain private sector collection points in various areas of the town, so that you can go to a sample collection site and have your sample taken.
“First, you will be interviewed if you are eligible, and if you are eligible, your sample will be taken and a vehicle will go round, collect all the samples and do a central testing. That will reduce the work for NCDC and bring in more efficiency and get more people to be tested”.
Before the activation of the labs in Kano and Jos, the country had nine (9) labs, namely: NCDC National Reference Laboratory and Defence Reference Laboratory in Abuja; Laboratory in LUTH, Lagos State Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory, and Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Lagos; and Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo state.
Others are – University College Hospital, Ibadan; Virology Laboratory of Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki; and African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Osun State.