Community transmission of coronavirus has reached 586 out of 774 local government areas (LGAs) of the country, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said yesterday.
The minister spoke at the end of the 11th virtual federal cabinet meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In view of that development, Ehanire said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N8.49bn for the purchase of 12 items in various quantities by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to boost COVID-19 testing capacities and diagnostic capabilities nationwide.
The minister, who addressed State House reporters in company of the Ministers of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Environment, Muhammad Mahmood, said efforts were being made to have one sample collection centre in each of the 774 LGAs in the country.
As at the 11th of August 2020, Nigeria had recorded 47, 290 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 33,609 cases have been discharged while 956 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The country has also so far tested 338, 084 samples out of its 200 million population.
Ehanire said: “a memo was presented on behalf of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). This memo is as a result of a special intervention fund for COVID-19, which is operated by the Presidential Task Force (PTF), and allocates these resources for NCDC preparedness. So, we are procuring testing materials right from sample materials to other kits in our laboratories systems to be able to respond properly to the community transmission phase.
“We have already made plans to have at least one sample collection centre in every local government, minimum of 774 and these resources will be necessary to go around the 774 local government areas, to ensure that persons in rural areas and small towns are not excluded and to ensure that not only the big cities are being attended to.
“The cost is N8.49bn to procure the items that are involved. There are a total of 12 items, the quantities involved are large numbers, which will be sent out later.”
A health expert who spoke to Daily Trust last night blamed community transmission on citizens’ non-compliance to COVID-19 safety measures.
Also yesterday, health workers told the government that as it works to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, it should address the issue of their welfare or risk strike.
Ehanire, while reacting to a question on why the PTF introduced PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests instead of rapid diagnostic tests that require test kits and produce results in minutes, said: “It is not that nobody is thinking of rapid diagnostic tests. It is being used all over the world even in Nigeria today.
“But the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts have said that this test is not very reliable in that it also delivered a significant number of false positive or false negative results.
“So, if you go to a place where a percentage of test results are wrong, then you have to be careful. Whereas the PCR test, that is the polymerase chain reaction test is accurate and reliable.
“So, if you want to know how accurate a person’s result is, that is the test you ought to do.
“Now, science is never certain, there are many ways and avenues by which the quality of the rapid test is still being improved. And as I speak to you, the Medical Laboratory Science of Nigeria, which is responsible for validating this test, which tells us whether they are reliable or not, whether we should use it or not, are validating about five of such tests now and they will give us their result to say whether it is reliable enough or not reliable enough.
‘‘There is the antibody rapid test and the anti-gem rapid test. So, I believe that within a matter of weeks and months, there will be one that will be accurate enough for us to rely on.