Coronavirus: Why I called for ‘desperate’ help for Nigeria – NCDC chief

Chikwe Ihekweazu, CEO, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, CEO, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has explained the motive behind his statement that Nigeria is in desperate need of essential materials for COVID-19 testing.

Mr Ihekweazu said he requested for the ‘RNA extraction kits’ which is currently out of supply and not ‘testing kits’ as reported.

On Sunday, Mr Ihekweazu wrote: ”We’re desperately looking for more RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) extraction kits as we expand #COVID19 testing. Product: Total viral RNA extraction kits (preferably spin column and with a lysis buffer). Manufacturers: Qiagen, ThermoFischer, SeeGene, Inqaba, LifeRiver etc.”

Following his tweet, Nigerians on social media condemned the NCDC boss for publicly requesting for COVID-19 kits after previously saying the country has enough resources to fight the virus.

However, Mr Ihekweazu speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 on Monday said he had to request for the kits to prevent the shutting down of the network of 15 laboratories currently testing for COVID-19 in Nigeria.

”On my tweet on Saturday, I asked for something called extraction kits. These are not the same thing as the test kits.

”Sometimes in life, you have to be honest with yourself. We have a supply chain of all the commodities but there are supply chain challenges in things coming into the country now.

”This is the consequences of the situation we are in now and the global demand for the same thing. So these are things that we had ordered and they were in process of coming in but we suddenly ran out. Rather than shut down a network of 15 laboratories in the country, I put out that tweet, ” he said.

Criticism

Mr Ihekweazu said although he received lots of criticisms from the general public, his purpose was achieved.

He said some people donated the extraction kits free of any charges.

”And while we got a lot of criticism which I expected but people came back and solved that problem.

”People brought the extraction kits and some of them offered to give to us for free. In every adversary, this country will continue to surprise us by its spirit, by its people and by its ingenuity in terms of how to solve that problem, ” he said.

COVID-19 testing

Official figures of Nigeria’s coronavirus infections crossed a thousand threshold on Friday, but there are indications the tally could vastly understate the true spread and toll of the contagion due to poor testing capacity.

Nigeria has the worst testing coverage in countries with over 1, 000 cases in Africa and anywhere in the world, based on data from worldometer.info.

On April 1, the Nigerian government said the national testing capacity was increased from 500 to 1,500 to expand coverage.

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During a briefing of the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19 in Abuja last Tuesday, the NCDC chief said that the centre would increase the testing capacity to 4000 per day across the country with 2000 samples to be done per day in Lagos State.

But the Nigerian Infectious Diseases Society (NIDS) said the country is not meeting the daily target.

“They are not meeting the target of 1,500 testings per day,” said Usman Abdulrahman, an official of NIDS, a multidisciplinary society of practitioners in the field of infectious diseases.

“If you are testing 1, 500 on a daily basis for more than three weeks, by now you should have tested over 30, 000 people, ” he said.

As of today, Nigeria has only tested about 11,000 people of its 200million population.

Meanwhile, Mr Ihekweazu said the focus is ”to keep testing as many people as possible.”



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