The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says each state in the country now has molecular diagnostic capacity for free COVID-19 testing.
The centre’s Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja on Thursday.
Ihekweazu said this was one of the recent achievements in the Nigeria’s response to the pandemic.
“Starting from just two laboratories in January, all states, plus FCT, now have at least one laboratory for free COVID-19 testing in the country.
“We are pleased to announce the inclusion of the Niger State Public Health Laboratory, Minna, to the NCDC Molecular Laboratory Network.
“In eight months, we have activated at least one laboratory for COVID-19 testing in all 36 states in the country,” he said.
Ihekweazu also said that samples would no longer be transferred from different parts of the country to a particular centre, as states now have their own laboratories.
“With 69 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), 22 GeneXpert and 17 private laboratories for COVID-19 in Nigeria, testing opportunities is now closer to the people.
“It’s now up to the public healthcare work force to utilise them to full potential and raise more awareness on their importance in the response,” he said.
The director-general said that two new antigen-based rapid test kits were recently given for emergency use, licenced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for COVID-19 response in three countries.
“They both have limitations as well as benefits, but won’t replace the PCR tests.
“We’re working to define the context of their usage,” he said.
According to him, the two test kits have a shorter turnaround time and can help public health workers to initiate immediate health response.
Ihekweazu said digital surveillance tools had been activated in local government areas of the country, airports, points of entries and land borders to help improve the surveillance of vivid and other diseases.
Meanwhile, the director-general announced the untimely death of Mr Uche Njoku, a Logistic expert with the NCDC, who was shot by unknown gunmen while on an official trip.
He commiserated with his family and all frontline workers on the painful loss of Njoku.
“We also wish other workers in the vehicle that were injured a quick recovery.
“This incident underscores the danger that frontline workers face in the course of fighting the virus on our behalf.
“We urge all Nigerians to continue to pray for the safety of all frontline workers and their families,” he said. (NAN)