The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) says it will upgrade Oyo, Abakaliki and Maiduguri laboratories to reference laboratories to ensure prompt case management of outbreaks in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this on Friday in Abuja, during a media update on COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Ehanire said the laboratories in Oyo, Ebonyi, Borno states, to be upgraded would also ensure other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths.
He said the three laboratories when upgraded would become molecular laboratories that would now have capacity to diagnose for epidemic and pandemic in the country.
The minister added that the laboratories would provide diagnostic support for a number of states in the country.
Ehanire said the laboratories would also be critical to reducing turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation.
The minister, however, disclosed that the federal government had released N10 billion grant for Lagos State to increase its capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
He added that another N5 billion for special intervention fund had been released to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.
Ehanire said that the government also through the Nigeria Airforce (NAF) had made provisions to bring back essential NCDC staff, who had been away on training and could not return to the country due to instituted measures in other countries.
Meanwhile, the minister emphasised on the importance of contact tracing, noting that the country was working hard on contact tracing to stay ahead of community spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“One critical measure we are taking is contact tracing, which is going on, to identify persons who have been in close contact with confirmed cases.
“If we leave it too late then everything becomes so much harder to do, because there are contacts that need to be traced, this is why the government is working hard for the rapid identification and management of cases,” he said.
He said that FMOH was working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, to review response activities and to institute measures to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians.
He noted that the multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by NCDC coordinates other national response activities.
The minister said the government would depend on the sense of responsibility of Nigerians, especially travellers from high risk countries to self-isolate.
“We will continue to plead with those, who have traveled out of Nigeria in the last 14 days to report, so that we won’t get to the point where our health system will be burdened,” he said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NCDC had launched a Coronavirus Service on WhatsApp.
The Coronavirus Information Service is a 24/7 automated ‘chatbot’ service, which would provide Nigerians with answers to the most common questions on COVID-19, directly from the NCDC, across thematic areas such as public health advisories, frequently asked questions and myth busters.
This service allowed for two-way conversations on WhatsApp.
The NCDC can send urgent and real-time messages to all Nigerians, who opt in to the service, while Nigerians could also engage directly with an NCDC connect centre agent to share or get more information.
All WhatsApp users could access it free by simply adding the number: +234-708-711-0839 to their phone contacts. To get started, users can text any key word for example, “Hi” to the number through WhatsApp chat which prompts a list of options.