OPINION Analysis: Who qualifies for COVID-19 testing in Nigeria?

coronavirusSo far, countries across the African continent and further afield have implemented varying testing strategies in their countries, without a one-size-fits-all approach used universally.

While comparisons across countries are being made, most countries have been challenged in their testing capacity and the approach adopted for the coronavirus (COVID-19), testing.

Since the first case of coronavirus was reported in Nigeria on February 28, the number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 318.

There are currently ten laboratories in Nigeria carrying out the tests for COVID-19.

The facilities in Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki in Ebonyi and the Biosecurity Centre in Lagos that used to be supported by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), have also been activated, increasing the number of molecular laboratories carrying out testing in the country to ten.

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With the rising demand for COVID-19 test in the country, reports say that a further six new laboratories will be opened in the coming weeks in Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Jos and Port Harcourt with the capacity to diagnose COVID-19. This will help to increase the number of daily tests that can be done in the country.

Different mitigation strategies have been put in place in Nigeria to reduce and contain the spread of COVID-19 – from the closure of international airports, schools and businesses, to the stoppage of public gatherings, social distancing measures and the lockdowns in Lagos, Federal Capital Territory and Ogun.

The testing criteria in Nigeria has so far been targeted at certain groups, so it is important for people to understand the testing criteria adopted by the Federal Ministry of Health.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has just published the fifth version of the case definition guide that outlined who is being tested. The case definition offers a standard criteria used to classify the clinical features used to determine who to test for COVID-19.

Commenting on the new case definition, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, NCDC, said that based on the new knowledge of COVID-19 in the country, the centre had expanded its case definition to enhance response to the disease.

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Ihekweazu listed the category of people being tested for COVID-19.

• Anyone with a travel history outside Nigeria, with symptoms of fever, cough or breathing difficulties within 14 days of arrival.

• Anyone who has symptoms and is in contact with a confirmed case.

• Anyone with fever and either cough, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath in an area of high COVID-19 prevalence in Nigeria with no other explanation.

According to him, people who fell in the above categories were advised to remain in self-isolation and immediately call the NCDC hotline – 080097000010 or their state hotline, which could be found on the state hotline directory published by the NCDC.

“They will then be tested and asked to self-isolate until they receive their test results. It is very important that people comply with the directives they are given by the health authorities.

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“The high rate of transmission of the disease makes it more important that self-isolation is taken seriously and close contacts also need to self-isolate and reduce contact with others,” he explained.

Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, however, maintains that testing must be strategic and guided by the national case definition, especially given that global shortages of test kits and medical commodities had been a challenge.

Ehanire said that there was a lot of work happening in the background to increase testing capacity, urging Nigerians to be patient.

The Minister said that the updated case definition takes into account the epidemiology of the virus and the transmission pattern seen in the country.

He said that the NCDC would continue to review guidelines such as the case definition, as more precise information emerges on the COVID-19 outbreak, including characteristics of transmission and geographical spread.

A news analysis by Abujah Racheal, NAN



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