Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC Director General, said this on Thursday in Abuja during the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19.
Ihekweazu, who was represented by NCDC Head of Surveillance and Epidemiology Department, Mrs Elsie Ilori, said that the testing labs were underutilized because the states were not collecting enough samples for the laboratory to test.
“As mentioned earlier since the Sallah break we’ve had some of our confirmed cases have been very low compared to what we’ll been having before but this is not because the numbers are getting low but because we’re not collecting enough samples.
“If you notice, the number samples collected during Salah was very low and we believe it was because of the festival season some labs even went on break, it shouldn’t have been.
“So we’re working with the states to quickly address this so that we do not have this kind of situation again,” he said.
The DG explained that the agency want every local government to have a sample collection site in the country.
“We started the pilots in FCT where we have various sample collection sites within the FCT and that’s what we want to expand to other states and let’s have sample collection sites in each local government in the country and that will help us to be able to collect enough samples and all the local government will be covered.
“On Monday, we talked about 85 local government where we did not collect samples at all, we never tested but if we have sample collection sites in these local governments, they will be able to test or collect samples and they will test.
“So we want to appeal to our states to prioritize testing and want Nigerians also to come forward for testing,” he pleaded.
According to the Ihekweazu, we know sometimes we look at stigmatisation, people say they don’t want to go to testing sites because they will be stigmatized.
“But I mean, this is not something to be ashamed of, we’ve just had an example amongst us, it can happen to anybody.
So, please let’s come out and be tested.
He, however, emphasized that this week was World Mask Week.
“I want to encourage us to use our mask properly and join us in the #MaskOn9ja so that we can fight this COVID-19,”.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), reports that since the beginning of the response, the NCDC strategy has been trace, test, isolate and treat.
The NCDC said it was only by doing this that the agency are able to know the burden of COVID-19 in the country.
“And so with a country as populated as Nigeria, it’s not been easy, but the agency have to continue to push.
“In line with our national strategy, we have rapidly called up our laboratory testing capacity nationwide. As at today, we have 63 laboratories that are testing for COVID-19 in the country.
“We have leveraged on the existing laboratories in the country including other programs, other diseases laboratories and private laboratories to set of this Laboratories.
“In addition to accessibility and improving the turnaround time of our result, our aim is to expand our national testing capacity which we have achieved.
“We’ve also supported states to set up sample collection sites,” it stated.