The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has announced the coming on stream of two new laboratories in the national COVID-19 laboratory network.
The inclusion of the duo brings to 13, the number of laboratories with the capacity to test for COVID-19.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of NCDC, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Wednesday in Abuja, on the sideline of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), briefing on COVID-19.
Ihekweazu said that the additional laboratories were an important target, but added that there was still a lot more to do.
NAN recalls that the NCDC, on March 27, announced, via its Twitter page, that it would reach 13 laboratories in three weeks. This target has been met in 17 days.
Ihekweazu said that the new entrants were the DNA Laboratory, a private sector facility in Kaduna, and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, in Borno.
He said that the country had the capacity to do a minimum of 3,000 tests daily, noting, however, that a critical challenge remained sample collection and transportation to the relevant laboratories.
The NCDC boss said that the Centre was working closely with states to develop innovative methods for sample collection.
”In Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, officials have begun active case search in communities by visiting areas and collecting samples from people who present fever and other respiratory symptoms,” he said.
Ihekweazu further said that the agency had provided states with additional sample collection kits to ensure that no gap was left in its goal to ensure a minimum of 3,000 samples are tested daily.
He disclosed that two more laboratories were in the pipeline and would be activated within the next one week.
According to him, the laboratories are in Port-Harcourt and Sokoto.
He further said that the NCDC laboratory strategy would soon be published, adding that it would contain more details on how the agency was scaling up testing for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the country.
He said that the next phase for scale up would leverage on existing HIV and Tuberculosis laboratories.
The official called on Nigerians to comply with medical recommendations targeted at controlling the spread of the virus and emphasised the importance of social distancing to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“We are working very hard to ensure that we can test every suspected case. Once confirmed to be positive, we shall isolate and manage that case to recovery and carry out contact tracing,” he said.