Effective collection and adequate detection of cases by public health staff are the main challenges confronting Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19, said Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Ihekweazu while speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on Tuesday said laboratory testing capacity is no longer a challenge as government has put in place necessary resources.
“The challenge right now is not the laboratory testing capacity.
”It is how active our public health workforce is in identifying suspected cases, collecting samples, and sending them into the lab for testing.
“So the limiting factor is not the lab, the limiting factor is getting the right samples into the labs and that’s our collective responsibility for the next two weeks,” he said.
He said though the country’s testing capacity has increased to 1,500 per day, the target is to get to 2,000 in places like Lagos that has recorded high cases of COVID-19 infection.
”We have sufficient capacity to test 1,500 right now and we are not close to exhausting that capacity every day.
”From today, we have to push even harder. Our target following Mr president’s speech is to get to 2,000 samples a day in Lagos, 1,000 in Abuja and 1,000 for the rest of the country.
“If we don’t create more light into what we are doing, we won’t really understand what we are,” Mr Ihekweazu said.
In Nigeria, 373 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed of which 99 have been discharged and eleven deaths recorded.
As of the time of reporting, 19 states and the FCT have confirmed at least a case of the virus in Nigeria.
Lagos State has now reported 214 cases, followed by FCT – 58, Osun – 20, Edo – 15, Oyo – 11, Ogun – 9, Bauchi, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom – 6, Katsina – 5, Kwara and Kano – 4, while Ondo and Delta have 3 cases each. Enugu, Ekiti, and Rivers have two cases each, while Niger, Benue, and Anambra have recorded one each.
Mr Ihekweazu said Nigeria started building its laboratory capacity following the COVID-19 outbreak in China.
”When the COVID-19 virus broke out a few months ago in China, we immediately started building up our laboratory capacity.
“In under four months, we have now activated a total of 12 labs across the country to bring testing closer to the people and to make sure that we have at least one laboratory in every zone.
”We will keep pushing until we get one in every state,” the NCDC boss said.
He said the focus for the government in the next two weeks is to replicate the efforts made in Lagos State, in other states of the country.
“In addition to the work in Lagos, we have to replicate the same thing across the entire country.
“I appeal to state governments to focus on these processes, how to get teams out in the streets, identify patients that may be cases, collect samples and send these samples through the mechanisms that we have set up and let us increase testing.
”It is only by increasing testing that we can provide light,” he said.
Mr Ihekweazu noted that resources have been made available by both federal and state governments to tackle the pandemic.
“Both the federal and state government have done everything possible to release the resources required for the response.
“Our challenge now is how to connect the dots and make the response more efficient,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said plans are underway to create a structured Patient Transport Plan within the new FMoH Action Plan capturing all states.
He said this will enhance the speedy transfer of patients as Nigeria gradually slips into community transmission of COVID-19.
“This is important in the event of the need to transfer patients from one centre to another. The Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies are developing the new National Action Plan as a strategy to respond to the imminent phase of COVID-19 community transmission,” he said.