Nigeria is expanding its laboratory facilities so as to improve COVID-19 testing, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said.
Mr Ihekweazu on Monday warned that cases of Covid-19 are expected to increase in the country.
“We expect cases of Covid-19 to rise as we improve capacity to detect and test. Our labs are activated to function 24/7,” he said.
Testing for Covid-19 is key to combating the spread of the disease across the country. At the moment, Nigeria has six functional laboratories.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how NCDC increased the number of its testing laboratories from five to six, a figure expected to rise to seven by Monday.
The six functional laboratories are in Lagos (2), Oyo, Osun, Edo, and FCT.
The official said the nation’s capacity to test for COVID-19 will scale up to 13 laboratories in the next three weeks, with work in progress “to add more laboratories in Abakaliki, Maiduguri, Kano, Sokoto, Port-Harcourt, Jos, Kaduna”.
Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in February, Nigeria has been using five laboratories to diagnose cases. The sixth was added on Friday.
Critics have been accusing the government of selective testing, saying the country has not been testing enough patients compared to other countries.
This, they said, may be the reason for the low number of confirmed cases reported in the country.
However, Mr Ihekweazu insisted Nigeria has been carrying out a fair number of tests, having tested over 2,000 people with less than 10 per cent testing positive.
He also said NCDC was tracking about 6,000 people who had been in contact with persons who tested positive to COVID-19.
Mr Ihekweazu also appealed for the patience of Nigerians for the few weeks of pain that would come.
“We appeal to Nigerians to work with us in compliance with the measures instituted by the President.
“Everyday NCDC is improving the turnaround time,” he said.
“We are being bogged down by people who do not require the test. So we have to manage demand. We have to focus on those who need it the most.
“The duration between testing and results depends on several factors. But it is between 24 to 48 hours. Our target is to get results out in 12 hours,” he said.
He said in the short-term, the number of confirmed cases is expected to keep rising, “but NCDC also expects to be able to get on top of this.”
“Our ability to flatten the curve of Covid-19 in Nigeria depends on all Nigerians. Our goal is to mobilise all available resources to tackle the virus. We remain grateful for the support we have received so far from stakeholders and partners” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that 111 people have tested positive for the virus, as of Sunday night, according to the NCDC.
Currently, Lagos has 68 cases; Abuja – 21, Ogun – three, Ekiti – one, Oyo – seven, Osun – two, Enugu – two, Edo – two, Bauchi – two, while Benue, Kaduna and Rivers have one case each.