The Federal Government on Tuesday said by next week, Nigeria would be testing 1,500 people for COVID-19 every day.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, said the country, as of last week, was conducting 500 tests per day.
Ihekweazu said this as some states, including Oyo and Edo, on Tuesday complained that they were facing a shortage of testing kits for the virus.
On its part, the Bauchi State Government appealed to the Federal Government to set up a COVID-19 testing facility in the state.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday, as part of efforts to increase contact tracing and treat Nigerians, who might have contracted the virus, ordered lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.
Although Nigeria recorded the first coronavirus case on February 27, the figure shot up to 131 on Monday night amidst complaints that the country was not testing many people with suspected cases of the virus.
Prominent Nigerians, who have been diagnosed with the disease include the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State
Ihekweazu, at the press conference, said the NCDC would only test specific persons whose case definition fitted into that of the centre.
He stated, “As of last week, we were testing about 500 per day, or we had the capacity to test 500 per day. By the end of this week, we will be at 1,000 per day, and next week we plan to take it to 1, 500 per day, just by increasing the number of labs.
“We are managing and improving the supply sides, but at the same time, we need to reduce the demand side to those that really need it. So, in Lagos, there is a big problem with a lot of anxiety and everybody wants to get tested. We need you to help us give this message to people. We have a case definition for COVID-19; either you have respiratory symptoms plus travel; plus contact with a confirmed case or respiratory symptoms of unknown explanation.
“This is an important message because the more people force themselves into being tested the less we have the capacity to test those that really need it. These people that really need it will be transmitting it into the community and more people will get infected.
“So, there is a consequence, not just for you as an individual, but for the rest of society. So, we need to get to those we need to get to. And by testing those that don’t need it, we block the system from those that need it, and the outbreak continues. So, there is a price to pay for testing all these asymptomatic individuals.
FG searching for 500 people
He said “We are following up on 500 contacts across the country. This is one of the reasons the President gave us two weeks to free up the roads and to enable us to have the space to do this effectively. This comes at some pains to many Nigerians in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja but it is a necessary precaution and task.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at the press conference, said the country received from a Chinese billionaire, Jac Ma, 100,000 face masks, 20,000 pieces of test kits, 9,999 pieces of face shields and 1,100 pieces of personal protective equipment.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on his part, lamented that the coronavirus pandemic was eating deep into the wealth of the nation.
The SGF said, “Coronavirus is not only a burden on our health but it is also affecting our wealth as a people. We must get to the grassroots to make sure our people are aware of the consequences.
“Coronavirus is real, exists and fast in spread and it is vicious. The earlier we come to terms with it the better for our nation.
“As of today, the cost of crude oil in the international market is $22 per barrel. Other countries are even giving discounts. Our problems are getting compounded but I know with the resolve, tenacity and resilience of Nigerians we will overcome the virus.”
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar, said food would be sent from the national grain reserves to the affected states during the 14 days of no-movement.
She said a national social register would be used to reach the 2.6m poor and vulnerable households captured in the National Social Register and affected in the three places.
According to her, the register captured 11,045,000,537 individuals covering 2,644,995 poor and vulnerable households, 47,698 communities in 4,946 wards in 453 local government areas in 35 states.
Foreign doctors coming to help us – Foreign Affairs Minister
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, said Nigeria was engaging some foreign countries on technical support.
He said, “We are engaging foreign countries in providing equipment that we don’t have as you know we are in short supply of ventilators.
“A lot of countries we are looking up to for assistance are also facing huge challenges themselves. Nevertheless, they are cooperating with us.
But the Oyo State Incident Manager for COVID-19, Dr Olabode Ladiipo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the state had not been able to meet the demand for testing.
Ladipo said 50 kits had been expended on COVID-19 cases in the state so far, adding that the state was improvising.
We need 5,000 testing kits
The incident manager stated, “We need a minimum of 5,000 sample collecting kits for COVID-19 in the state to address the challenge. We need a whole lot of aid that we can get from the Federal Government and any other source as a lot of things are coming up. We need to engage in tracking of contacts; quite a lot of things are involved here, so, we need a large chunk of resources.