The Federal Government will make deploy 300 GeneXpert Machines, to test for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak in the country.
Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja, at the Presidential Taskforce Briefing on COVID-19 in the country.
The GeneXpert machines were widely deployed about a decade ago to rapidly detect tuberculosis, including milt-drugs resistant strains.
It had since been adapted to enable rapid testing of many other pathogens, including not only HIV and hepatitis C, but also influenza, Ebola and sexually transmitted infections.
Ehaire said the recent inclusion of University College Hospital, Ibadan into the network laboratories for COVID-19, and ongoing assessment to include seven other laboratories in the next three weeks would enable increased testing capacity and improved turn-around time.
The minister said the laboratories would assist other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths.
He said it would be critical to reduce turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation.
Ehanire said the closure of the airports and also the land borders would reduce the number of importation “of new cases”.
He, however said that Nigerians should be aware that the elderly among them were particularly vulnerable groups.
Giving an update on the confirmed cases; the minister said that as at 11.15 am March 31, there were 135 cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria with two deaths, while five had been discharged.
He added that currently, Lagos had 81; Abuja- 25, Ogun – Four, Ekiti – one, Oyo – Eight, Osun, Five , Enugu – Two, Edo – Two, Bauchi -Two, Kaduna three, while Benue ,Rivers had one case respectively.
“Lagos state still has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country with 81 cases.
“The cases reported were from travellers who have just returned to the country.
“Other cases were from people who have come in contact with infected people,” he said
In his remarks, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said that the strategy that NCDC were still applying was one of containment.
“ It means that still at a point, where we think we have a window of opportunity to identify all the cases, confirm them, bring them into care.
“We confirm all their contacts, follow up each of them, make sure they don’t have the disease and if they do have the disease, bring them into care,” he disclosed.
Ihekweazu said that this was a tedious process, because NCDC is following about 5000 cases all over the country.
“Do we have to really meet? We will be destroying the efforts we’re making collectively.
“It’s only by doing this and bearing this pain for a few weeks that we have a small chance of containing this outbreak,” he said.
Ihekweazu disclosed that an updated case definition was taken into account for the epidemiology of the virus and the transmission pattern seen in the country.
He said the agency would continue to review guidelines such as the case definition, as more precise information emerged on the COVID-19 outbreak including characteristics of transmission and geographical spread.
“The major update to the current case definition, is that any patient with acute respiratory illness within the last 10 days (fever and either cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath) and in absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation and residing or working in the last 14 days in an area identified by NCDC as a moderate or high prevalence region will be treated as a suspect case.
“This is in addition to the already existing case definition where the focus is on symptomatic patients (fever and either cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath) who are recent international travelers within 14 days of arrival or contacts of confirmed cases, “ he explained.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the control of COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, said they had just begun the first day of restrictions in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.
Mustapha said that PTF was observing developments around the country as they received reports.
He disclosed that the PTF had however met with Security Chiefs to smoothen the rough edges of implementation and within the first day of implementation and an appropriate restriction protocol and exemption guidelines would be issued.
“Initial feedback is that there are violations of restrictions by the citizens that we desire to protect. Let me emphasise that the decision to lockdown is to prevent community spread which may be dangerous to manage.
“It can only be done by Nigerians and for Nigerians,” he stressed.