Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Tuesday disclosed that the country currently carries out between 3,000 and 6,000 daily COVID-19 tests.

It said although the testing infrastructure available can conveniently carry out 15,000 daily COVID-19 tests, the country is yet to fully utilise this capacity, as only 40 percent of it is being deployed.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known in Abuja, during a television interview.

He said, “We have a national capacity to test somewhere close to 15,000 tests per day. We’re however doing between 3,000 and 5,000 and maybe 6,000 at most. So, that is what we are doing and we are testing about 40 percent of what we have the capacity to test for.

“This is not just about the laboratories. This is really about the sample collection; encouraging people not to be fatigued, not to worry – to have confidence in the system, and to come up when they are sick, and to provide samples to be tested.

“Second challenge is the logistics to get those tests collected into the lab. We have been working over the last week with States to improve the efficiency of this.

“How we have gotten to 64 laboratories is that we have gone across the country and wherever we see some minimum capacity, we have worked with them to quickly upgrade what they have in order to get them to the level of testing – whether it’s in a university, in a state hospital, in a federal teaching hospital.”

Concerning faster ways of testing for COVID-19, like the saliva testing, the NCDC boss said, “Development of new diagnostics has been a little bit slow. Yes, there have been a lot of discussions about a 15-minute test or your bedside test.

“All of these characteristics are great but until we have a test that actually works, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 15 minutes or whether it is easy to use. The first question is – does it work? Does it work well enough, such that when a doctor says you are positive or negative that is exactly what it is. These are two characteristics of each test that we call the sensitivity and specificity of a test.

“Looking at developments around the world, we are ourselves evaluating, with the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, new antibody and antigen tests. All the ones we have evaluated, none of them so far has been good enough to be used for diagnostic purposes.

“We are going to use one of the antibody tests for a sero-survey that we are about to implement to determine how many people in Nigeria have been infected in specific populations. They are good enough to be used in surveys but they are not good enough yet to be used for diagnostic purposes.

“Having said that, this is really a rapidly evolving field. The easier testing becomes, the much more powerful will be our ability to control this outbreak. As soon as we get something useful in the market, we will grab it with both hands.”

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