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NCDC: We’ll roll out mass testing for COVID-19 by May

NCDC: We’ll roll out mass testing for COVID-19 by May
April 17
19:59 2020
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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says between May and September, it will begin mass testing for COVID-19.

The centre disclosed this in its report detailing how it plans to scale up laboratory test for COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the NCDC, had earlier said there would be no mass testing for COVID-19 given the scarcity and expense of testing kits.

But in the report, the agency said the mass testing would be carried out “to survey the population, to learn more about this virus and contribute to research and development”.

“The Federal Ministry of Health has prioritised testing as one of the key interventions to the COVID-19 response in Nigeria,” the report read.

“As global shortages of diagnostic kits and laboratory consumables increasingly impacts the optimal functionality of the laboratory system in Nigeria and acrossthe world, an adaptive testing strategy will be adopted to ensure the most vulnerable persons, those at elevated risk, and those with super spreading potential have access to testing.

“From April 2020, NCDC will work with existing laboratories to ensure that everyone who meets the case definition gets tested.

“In the next one month, NCDC will expand testing capacity to six more molecular laboratories in the country, resulting in a total of 14 laboratories. Between May and September 2020; we will roll out mass testing to survey
the population, to learn more about this virus and contribute to research and development.”

The NCDC said it will work with donors, partners and the private sector to rapidly scale testing capacity to every state in the country.

It added that it plans to use existing human immune virus (HIV) and tuberculosis laboratories in the country to test for COVID-19.

“In order to contain the outbreak, the Government of Nigeria plans to rapidly scale diagnostic testing to cover all 36 States plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” the report read.

“Testing strategy will be adapted based on phases of the epidemic, as defined by WHO.”

It listed the phases as containment phase, transition phase, localised community transmission, widespread community transmission, waning transmission.

Between the first and last phases, the NCDC said it plans to increase combined national testing capacity from 1, 500 to a minimum of 7,000 tests per day across the country.

“Diagnostic testing is an essential response strategy to interrupt the transmission for the COVID-19 pandemic by informing patient management and identifying positive cases, which can then be isolated,” it said.

“In May 2020, we will begin testing for COVID-19 in existing HIV/TB laboratories (which will also enable routine and systematic testing of health workers).

“The success of this strategy is dependent on the ability to leverage existing molecular diagnostics resources in the country to support the COVID-19 response.”

So far, Nigeria has tested 6,649 patients for coronavirus, with 442 positive cases. TheCable had done a comparative analysis of Nigeria and Ghana, which has far less population but has conducted over 50,000 COVID-19 tests.

While Ghana has a population of 29.7 million, Nigeria’s figure has been estimated at 200 million. There are currently 614 COVID-19 cases in Ghana.

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