By Joseph Ayinde
The Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday called on the private-owned laboratories in Nigeria to support the country’s testing capacity for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
This was stated by the NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the Presidential Tasks Force (PTF) on COVID-19 national briefing in Abuja.
Ihekweazu noted that Nigeria, unlike other countries, places more burdens on the public laboratories.
He said: “From January 2020 to January 2021, we have activated 112 laboratories with the capacity to test for COVID-19 in the country.
“Seventy-four are public sector laboratories, 33 for private of which Lagos alone has 18 laboratories; Abuja has nine and five in other states, while the rest are corporate laboratories, serving the community around them.
“Unfortunately, we have not fully optimised the capacity of the private laboratories yet.“If you look at South Africa, 60 per cent of all the tests done are from the private laboratories. “In Nigeria, 30 per cent of the over one million tests that had been done is by the private sector. The public sector still bears the burden of being tested.”
Ihekweazu said that the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the need for testing provides an opportunity for the private sector to get more involved. He said a framework had been developed for the private sector participation. The NCDC director-general promised to send a team of supporters for the activation of private laboratory in any part of the country.
He said that in spite of the drive for vaccines in the country, testing remain relevant even, in times to come. On schools resumption, the NCDC director-general urged both the parents and teachers to take collective responsibility in ensuring compliance to safety protocols.
He also said that the agency had published a new guidance for State Governments, public and private institutions on the use of approved Antigen (Ag) based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for Coronavirus disease.
“In September 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of two Ag RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor and Abbott for COVID-19 testing.
“Following this, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, in collaboration with other stakeholders, carried out a national validation of these RDTs.
“The validation, which was carried out during the screening held at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, showed that the RDTs meet minimal standards for sensitivity and specificity of COVID 19 diagnostic tests.