The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has set a target of testing two million people in the next three months across the country.
The Director-General of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who announced this at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on Tuesday, said the target was in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures.
Ihekweazu therefore sought the collaboration of all social partners, and the state governors to achieve this target.
“The laboratory strategic group that is responding to this outbreak has set itself a target of testing two million people in the next three months. This is a very ambitious target. We are working very hard with our development partners and all our friends to equip our labs to be able to do this.
“It is going to cost us a lot of money but we can’t do this without a lot of collaboration from everyone. In countries that have achieved a lot more in terms of testing like in South Africa that we always refer to, they have tested a lot more. It is also not just that they have tested more, but they have tested according to the proportion of their population.
“We are lagging behind but now we have to catch up. So when I refer to this, it is really as an epidemiological indicator of how well the response is doing.
“In order to test two million people in three months, we need to test about 50 thousand per state (plus or minus), depending on our population size. There is no other way we can do this.”
According to him, the entry point into COVID-19 control is testing because of the prevalence of a number of asymptomatic infections and mildly symptomatic people.
“We really can’t understand the size of the problem if we do not test. We have built on the lab side by expanding capacity, now we have to build on the supply side to see that the samples come in,” the NCDC boss said.
Ihekweazu, however, expressed frustration with the progress so far made in testing as some states have not been cooperating with it. He said:
“Over the next few weeks, I will be engaging aggressively with every state to get their buy-in and asking them to work with us as it will increase our capacity to test, and also increase the capacity to send in the samples.
“So, I am really seeking for your collaboration and your support, the support of all the governors of every state in Nigeria to work with us to see whether we can achieve this target of 2 million tests in Nigeria in the next three months.”
He pointed out that Nigerians can only reduce number of transmissions by staying at home, and by reducing travels, adding, “If we limit traveling to essential services and products, then we have a chance of reducing the impact of this outbreak on our country.”
This is coming just three days after the NCDC DG, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu revealed that the country is in desperate need of more coronavirus testing kits.