The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, says the country’s low testing capacity is due to the poor health system and not infrastructure as many presumed.
Speaking in a live TV programme in Abuja on Monday, the NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu disclosed that the fight against COVID-19 is a collective effort that requires the efforts of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other stakeholders in the country.
“This is where we need to come together. A lot of people thought it was down to the laboratories, reagents and the equipment. But we have provided all of that as well as scaled up the level of capacity to test incredibly.
“It is now opening up the big challenges of our health sector way beyond what NCDC can do,” he said.
The challenges with the health system, he said, include the problem of collecting samples from individuals, transporting them to laboratories and getting the results back to patients, as well as challenges of getting patients admitted into hospitals.
“What our improvement in the testing capacity has shown is that the primary challenge is not in the infrastructure. It lies in the system. How can we organise our healthcare delivery to serve people better?
“That’s really what we really need to start working on for the future. It is very easy for us in Nigeria to throw money at problems. What will not change is the attitude of our people to have confidence in the health sector.
“This means we have to rethink, bottom-up how we are providing health services to the people so that they can have the confidence to come to the hospital, offer you their samples and are confident that the result will get back to them. It is subtlety. That is my challenge to my team and the rest of the sector at state and federal level,” he said.
The NCDC boss applauded Lagos for having the right indices and showing enough commitment in terms of its COVID-19 testing capacity.
“The state that gives us the biggest indicator of where we are, is the data out of Lagos State. Lagos has consistently made efforts to test as many people as possible. They had been responsible for 50% of COVID-19 cases initially in the country, which is now down to 30%.
“What we are seeing is that Lagos has consistently tested high numbers and we have seen a reduction in the positivity rate from close to 30% at a point. For instance, one in every 10 persons tested positive for COVID-19 which is right about 10% or less in the last few weeks,” he said.
He also applauded four other states – Kano, FCT, Plateau and Borno for their transparency and collective support to the COVID-19 teams in their individual states.
“What does that tell us? Fewer people are turning out positive among those tested in areas that are testing sufficiently. We can say that with confidence in Kano, FCT, Plateau and Borno.
We can come to some conclusions about where we are. But in any state where they are not testing enough, it is very difficult to analyse and interpret their results with confidence,” he bemoaned.
Source: Punch HealthWise