The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is targeting two million Nigerians for Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests in the next three months, the agency’s Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, hinted on Tuesday.
Speaking in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Control, Dr. Ihekweazu said the target was in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures.
He said: “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.”