By Christiana Ekpa
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu has described the 2,000 COVID-19 tests so far carried out in Nigeria as insufficient, calling for upgrade of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratories across the country to facilitate mass-testing for the virus.
In a statement he issued in Abuja Thursday, Okechukwu observed that laudable as it was to lockdown parts of the country, keep people indoors, and track over 6,000 contacts, the country must also rapidly ramp up its testing capabilities to expand beyond the current seven test centres.
He said: “The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has told us that only 2,000 Nigerians have been tested in over one month of combating COVID-19. This figure is quite low for a country of about 200 million people.
“Our first line of responsibility on this, therefore, is to ensure that testing services are available in, at least, all the states of the federation. If we are tracking over 6,000 contacts, then we need more testing facilities.
“We just have to scale it up across the country to enable us ascertain the true extent of the outbreak in the country. Let us know how many Nigerians that are exposed, let us isolate, and let us test maximally”.
He consequently urged the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to urgently upgrade the 34 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratories to COVID-19 testing centres.
Okechukwu thanked all the donors and urged the Presidential Task Force to be project-specific with the donations, paying attention to such facility upgrades.
He also noted the need for timelines for proper evaluation of progress, even as he acknowledged that as with other parts of the world, the virus seems to be dictating the timeline.
He stressed that the nation should work towards setting timelines so that Nigerians are able to monitor progress and match it with expended resources.
“There are critical aspects here, such as prevention, testing, tracking, isolation, case management, dealing with the social interventions, and of course evaluation.
“For instance, how many Nigerians do we intend to test by the end of April? How many new testing centres are we expecting?” he added.
Okechukwu commended the joint efforts of all Nigerians in the public and private sectors, especially the nation’s healthcare professionals, who he said were in the frontlines of the war against the pandemic, and called on all Nigerians to adhere to all the guidelines and directives issued by National Centre for Disease (NCDC) and various levels of government to stop the spread of the virus.