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Olufemi Atoyebi, Adelani Adepegba, Dayo Ojerinde and Daud Olatunji

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Wednesday said 20 centres  would  be created in Lagos State for  collection of samples from people suspected to have contracted COVID-19.

The NCDC Director General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this at a press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the samples would be taken to the molecular laboratories in Lagos for testing.

Ihekweazu also said door-to-door collection  of samples would soon begin in Abuja. He added that Nigeria had increased her testing capacity to 3,000

At the press conference,  the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that the ministry had expanded its case definition for COVID-19.

The NCDC had, on Tuesday, said the problem the country was facing was not the inadequacy of molecular laboratories, but how adequate  samples would get to the labs for testing.

It said the 12 molecular laboratories in the country, which it put their capacity at 1,500 on Tuesday, were not conducting enough tests.

At the PTF press conference on Wednesday, Ihekweazu said part of the measures to contain the spread of the virus was adoption of a change in strategy after more testing laboratories had been established.

Samples of people with acute respiratory infection, high fever to be taken

He said, “We are trying to change our strategy now and test more people. The testing laboratories have increased, but the bottleneck now is getting  samples from the right people.

“We are setting up 20 health care facilities in Lagos to collect samples from people that think they have acute respiratory infections and high fever. We are intensifying our surveillance in health, so hospitals around Lagos and the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) can collect samples from people with high respiratory infections.

“In certain Abuja communities, we are going from door to door to collect samples from people that have acute respiratory infections. We are doing the same in Lagos. In these two  places,  Lagos and the FCT, where there is high incidence of the infection, we are now going to the patients to collect samples.

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“Core centres have improved dramatically and we are urging the people that think they have acute respiratory infections to call us. Go to one of these 20 centres (in Lagos). Don’t go to any other centre. Lagos State will announce them as they are set up and make them accessible to everyone.

“We have the capacity right now to test 3,000 per day, but that capacity is not being fully utilised. That is why we focus on Lagos and the FCT.”

Health workers, senior citizens to be prioritised

The NCDC boss added that with a shortage of personal protective equipment around the world, Nigeria would give priority to health workers at isolation centres and laboratories, as well as senior citizens on the use of face masks.

He said, “It (use of masks) has been a controversial topic, but it does not have to be. The number of cases from over the world has risen to over two million with over 100,000 deaths of a disease that none of us know about. The scale of the disease outbreak and response has to radically increase and the aspect of mask is one of them.

“On the other hand, there is a reality that we face. There is a chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks, around the world. The world was not prepared for a pandemic of this scale. We have to prioritise certain part of our population.

“Fifty per cent of the world masks are produced by China that has been lock down for months. They are now restarting their production and thankfully, some of those things are coming out.”

He said countries that produced medical materials, including masks,  had banned their exportation  because they too needed them.