NIGERIA is failing to meet its coronavirus testing target of 30,000 tests a day set by the federal government aimed at ensuring that 2m of its citizens were tested with three months in a bid to beat the pandemic.
Like most other countries, as soon as the pandemic broke out, Nigeria opened testing stations and isolation centres in the hope of containing the virus. As part of the masterplan, the federal government set itself a goal of testing 30,000 Nigerians daily between May and July, in the hope that this would being the pandemic under control.
In April when the target was set by the laboratory strategic group, less than 5,000 tests had been conducted throughout Nigeria. To achieve the target, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said it was ramping up the national testing capacity from 10,000 to 30,000 tests daily. In line with this, an estimated 50,000 people were to be tested in each of the 36 states and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
However, statistics from the NCDC show that only 212,201 samples had been tested out of a total population of over 200m people, just 21.2% of the set target. Going by the set target to conduct up to 30,000 tests per day, Nigeria should have tested up to 2.52m people to date.
Nigeria currently has the third largest number of coronavirus cases in Africa after Egypt and South Africa. Prior to April, Nigeria had activated only seven laboratories nationwide and as of July 20, the number of laboratories increased to 57.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the NCDC director-general, said: “The target is not feasible for now. Testing is important although in itself it is not going to stop transmission, it gives us a window into how well our control efforts are working.
“It helps us to know where we have peaked or how people are responding to care. Testing is the only way we can know, so we set an extremely ambitious target of testing at least 2m persons in three months and we have got to a little over 200,000 and it is nowhere near where we want to be.”
He explained that the target was not just for the NCDC or the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 but for all Nigerians collectively, adding that the aim was to get as many persons as possible tested. Dr Ihekweazu added that other countries are moving ahead and Nigeria will also show that it has the capacity to catch up, not necessarily to compete but to demonstrate that the country can find a way of managing this outbreak itself.
“The challenge now is not the laboratory capacity as we have the laboratories and the reagents and we continue to manage an extremely complex supply chain that will make sure the laboratories are functional. What we need now are the state governments to encourage sample collection, obtain the right samples and get them to the labs and we will test and give you your results.
“Many of the labs are owned by the state governments, some even by the corporate private sector. We are going to push towards the target and even if we do not achieve it, the effort has led to some incredible progress for us already and we must keep pushing forward,” Dr Ihekweazu added.