Nigeria needs to embark on massive testing and isolation of patients to check the spread of COVID-19 infection in the country, a member of the House of Representatives, Mansur Soro (APC, Bauchi), said on Sunday.
Citing the proximity of Taiwan to China, he said Taiwan has shown that the fight against COVID-19 is largely won through aggressive testing and that delay in taking proactive measures by the government could come at a huge cost.
Nigeria has recorded 97 cases of the infection in 12 states, which includes Lagos (59), the FCT (16), Oyo (7), Ogun (3), two in each of Enugu, Edo, Bauchi, and Osun States; and one in each of Ekiti, Rivers, Benue and Kaduna states.
But of these states, only six have a testing laboratory — Lagos has two and the rest of Abuja, Edo, Osun, Oyo and Ebonyi states have one each, all totaling seven. Compared to its 200 million population, that’s a centre for 29 million people.
That other states with confirmed cases, especially the whole of the north, save Abuja, do not have a test laboratory is disturbing, Mr Soro said in a statement he issued.
The northern part of the country has 19 states, spanning north-west, north-east, north-central. The region has recorded cases of COVID-19 in Bauchi, Benue and Kaduna states, as well as the FCT.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan earlier this month had raised a similar alarm about facility deficiency in the 19 northern states as well as the five southeastern states.
With about 300 per cent increase in one week, Nigeria’s total cases stand at 97, as of last count by the nation’s disease control agency, NCDC. But some believe the figure could be more, had the country tested more people.
As of March 26, its latest report, the NCDC had screened 846 persons. That is one test per 236,000 people. Africa’s worst hit, South Africa, has tested over 15,500 people, despite recording its index case a week later than Nigeria.
Largely due to limited capacity, the NCDC has restricted testing to people who have travel history to high-risk countries and those who have had contacts with confirmed cases.
This is similar to the strategy used by the UK and the U.S. The latter has the highest recorded cases in the world.
Mr Soro noted that battling coronavirus is akin to a war and the authorities must treat it as such.
He urged the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and state governments, especially ones with recorded cases to do more in putting the needed facilities to tackle a surge in cases recorded.
“With the financial intervention of N6.5 billion (in two payment installments) to NCDC by President Buhari and an average-monthly allocations of N6 billion each to States/LGAs,” he added, “there will be no justification whatsoever for Nigerians not to have a minimum of one testing centre per state.”
Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC boss, could not be reached for comment Sunday evening as his line was unavailable.