NIGERIA is desperately searching for more coronavirus test kits to furnish the new testing stations that being opened across the country as the combination of increased global demand and the absence of local manufacturing has made them scarce.
Although not one of the worst affected countries, with 1,273 affected people and 40 unfortunate deaths, Nigeria has responded well to the pandemic by opening isolation and test centres. Earlier this month, the Lagos State government alone announced it was opening 20 new centres and as the virus spreads across the 35 other states of the country, many more will be required.
However, with every country in earth in desperate need of testing kits, they have become very scare and many nations have had to ramp up production. As has been the case with other pieces of required equipment like ventilators and facemasks, most nations have had to get factories producing related goods to switch to the production of test kits to meet demand.
This is where Nigeria is particularly vulnerable as there is very little manufacturing in the country and there are no industries that can switch production overnight. Historically, Nigeria has relied on imports for all her medical needs but with very little available on the international market, the country is facing a crisis.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said the country needs to stock more of the Ribo Nucleic Acid (RNA) extraction kits to cater for the expansion of its testing capacity. He then gave specifications of the test kits Nigeria was looking for and the preferred manufacturers.
“We’re desperately looking for more RNA extraction kits as we expand Covid-19 testing. We are looking for total viral RNA extraction kits, preferably spin column and with a lysis buffer and will be talking to manufacturers like Qiagen, ThermoFischer, SeeGene, Inqaba, LifeRiver etc,” Dr Ihekweazu added.
Dr Ihekweazu said the NCDC had added two more laboratories to the existing 13 in the country. Last week, he added that the centre would increase Nigeria’s Covid-19 testing capacity to 4,000 per day across the country with 2,000 samples to be done per day in Lagos State alone.
Across Nigeria, there is disaffection that not enough people are being tested. In Kano State in particular, there is a crisis as the only testing centre there was closed down after its staff tested positive, leading to avoidable deaths.
Nigeria is still lagging far behind other African nations when it comes to testing as so far, only about 10,000 Nigerians have been tested, compared with 100,622 in Ghana, 161,000 in South Africa and 90,000 in Egypt. Even smaller nations like Djibouti with 1,023 confirmed cases and a population of 985,433 has fared better than Nigeria conducting 11,741 tests.