The capacity of Nigerian health authorities to carry out more COVID-19 tests has come into question, following the rise in the number of confirmed cases of the infection and a widening base for contact tracing. The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu addressed Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that 15 rapid response teams have been set up across the country, the highest number recorded in the country’s history of battling infectious diseases. He further stated that improvements are being made to Nigeria’s capacity to carry out more COVID-19 tests. He identified limitation in human resources as a challenge in improving testing capacity, as molecular testing requires expertise, and the number of personnel trained in that regard cannot be easily increased by the recruitment of volunteers. He disclosed that the NCDC has issued a case definition to guide the testing for COVID-19, which has been widely circulated to States. The case definition limits testing to persons with respiratory syndrome, persons who have been in contact with infected persons and those who have returned from other countries. He stated that about 4,000 people had been tested so far, as at April 3, 2020.
The NCDC has been working to widen its molecular laboratory network across the country. There is now a total of nine molecular laboratories in Nigeria, with three in Lagos State, two in Abuja and one each in Oyo, Osun, Edo and Ebonyi States. The NCDC is also setting up laboratories in Kano, Borno, Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau and Rivers States.
The Director General of the NCDC stated that the Centre has been working on collaborating with the private sector and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to increase laboratory testing capacity in Nigeria. Ihekweazu therefore appealed to Nigerians to be patient while the NCDC worked to improve its COVID-19 testing capacity, adding that health authorities are awaiting the validation of COVID-19 rapid test kits.