We Are Testing The Right People, Not Playing Number Games

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has set a target to test two million people for COVID-19 across the country in the next three months. The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the target is a very ambitious one and therefore sought the collaboration of all social partners, and the state governors to achieve this target. Speaking during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Ihekweazu, said the laboratory strategic group that is responding to the outbreak has set itself a target of testing two million people in the next three months.

According to him, the goal of the response team is to avoid a single case in any of the four states still without any reported case of COVID-19, adding that the goal was really to avoid transmission, infections and to keep the states with no case or few cases exactly that way. “How are we going to do this?” The NCDC boss said Nigeria has learnt from countries that the only way to achieve this is to test many people. Ihekweazu said:

The laboratory strategic group that is responding to this outbreak has set itself a target of testing two million people in the next three months. This is a very ambitious target. We are working very hard with our development partners and all our friends to equip our labs to be able to do this. “It is going to cost us a lot of money but we can’t do this without a lot of collaboration from everybody.

A country that has achieved a lot more in terms of testing is South Africa. Not only that they have tested more, but they have also tested more as a proportion of their population. “We are lagging behind, but now we have to catch up. So, when I referred to this, it is really an epidemiological indicator of how well response is doing. In order to test two million people in three months across the country, we need to test about 50,000 per state plus-minus, depending on your population size.

There is no other way we can do this, we need cooperation and collaboration of every state government in Nigeria, every department of public health, and we need the collaboration of the people living in these states.” He added:

The only entering point into control of this outbreak is through testing. We really cannot understand the size of the problem if we do not test. So, we are going to try, working with all our partners. “We have built on our lab size, and expanded capacity. Now we need to build on the supplying side so that we see the samples coming. There is no other way to do this than working collaboratively with our biggest clients, for us as a government, the state government and their teams.” Over the next few weeks, Ihekweazu said he would be engaging aggressively with every state, “getting them buy-in, asking them to work with us as we increase capacity to test, but also increase capacity to send in the samples.”

He stated further: “So, I am really seeking for your collaboration and your support, the support of all the governors of every state in Nigeria to work with us to see whether we can achieve this target of 2 million tests in Nigeria in the next three months.” He pointed out that Nigerians can only reduce number of transmissions by staying at home, and by reducing travels, adding, “If we limit traveling to essential services and products, then we have a chance of reducing the impact of this outbreak on our country.” Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the rise in figure in not unexpected, emphasizing however that the concern at the rising figures is understandable “but not altogether unexpected.” According to him, they are evidence of improved testing, but also stronger signs of community transmission.

The Minister said the highly propagated social measures like distancing and postponement of all non-essential travel have had only limited success. He said: “They must therefore also be a reminder that we need to redouble our efforts to comply with advisories, more especially as restrictions have been eased. Much more stringent compliance will be required.”

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