The Federal Government says it may be able to increase its weekly COVID-19 testing by 9,100 following its readiness to repurpose the tuberculosis GeneXpert machines already deployed in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in its ‘National Strategy to Scale Up Access to Coronavirus Disease Testing in Nigeria’ posted on its website noted that the plan to repurpose the tuberculosis machines is to decentralise and speed up testing across the country and strengthen national surveillance for COVID-19.
In the document, the NCDC explained that the country has 407 GeneXpert instruments deployed in 399 health facilities across the country, for use as first-line testing for TB diagnosis.
It, however, noted that the United States-based Food and Drug Administration had granted the manufacturer, Cepheid, Emergency Use Authorisations for the use of the instruments and specially designed cartridge in testing for COVID-19.
The NCDC, which is the coordinating agency for the COVID-19 response in the country, said given that “every state of the federation including the FCT has at least five GeneXpert sites, at least one site in each state will be repurposed for COVID-19 testing.”
It noted that with the GeneXpert machines, each of which could test 24 samples daily, it is targeting 1,300 tests per day with ability to return test results same day, and since the NCDC conducts tests every day of the week, Nigeria could therefore increase its weekly testing by 9,100.
The NCDC added that there are also available in-country two mobile laboratories equipped with two GeneXpert instruments each. These will be deployed as needed to support COVID-19 testing surge in target states.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said that government envisages a steady rise in the number of cases with “more diligent testing, treatment, isolation and (contact) tracing.”