NCDC urges state governments to test more for virus

Ihekwazu, NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on state governments to intensify efforts to ramp up sample collection and testing for Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja, against the backdrop of the country’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Ihekweazu said that no matter how intensive the states’ preventive measures were, success in controlling the outbreak could not be assessed without estimating the actual burden of the disease, through testing.

“No matter how intensive preventive measures are, there’s no way to assess states’ success or failure in managing COVID-19 without conducting more tests to estimate the burden of the disease,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that testing is critical to the national response,  adding “we will continue to scale up capacity.

“Our goal is to limit transmission”.

The director-general also stressed the need for Nigerians to support the public health response to COVID-19 by taking responsibility to limit transmission.

He noted that the health agency would continue to build up its testing capacity across the country.

Speaking on the pooling strategy for testing adopted by some countries, including Ghana, Ihekweazu said that Nigeria is implementing a testing strategy best suited for the country’s realities and needs.

He added that the front line laboratory scientists were doing their best under the critical circumstances.

“We will continue to scale up our testing capacity. We are testing every sample we get daily.

“In terms of laboratory capacity, we are ready to do more,” Ihekweazu said.

The Pooling Testing is a method of testing samples from multiple patients with a single Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and it was used previously in the early stages of the HIV epidemic when PCR costs were high.

Meanwhile, Ihekweazu explained that COVID-19 patients caught dancing in a video, which has gone viral, were kept at the isolation centres so as not to spread the virus.

Ihekweazu said that it was wrong for Nigerians to make false assumptions about the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria based on the videos on social media.

The director-general assured that NCDC would continue to adapt its strategy as knowledge about the virus evolves.

He stated that the discharge criteria for any COVID-19 patient at the moment was a single negative COVID-19 test.

Ihekweazu also explained that the average duration of hospitalisation for COVID-19 patients is 11 days.

He said that government decided to do this due to limitations in bed spaces.

“Some people recover faster than others based on certain factors such as the strengths of their immune system.

“Full reopening of the economy will require the sacrifice of all Nigerians in taking responsibility and adhering to recommended measures,” he said. (NAN)