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NCDC to deploy 17 GeneXperts to states to scale up testing

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Thursday said 17 GeneXperts would be deployed to states to scale up testing for COVID-19 in the country.

Ihekweazu also announced that the first set of GeneXpert cartridges will arrive Nigeria on the 25th of May.

The DG had said that part of its strategy to increase number of tests conducted is by reconfiguring the GeneXperts for TB testing. He said there are 400 GeneXperts across the city, but not all are appropriate for COVID-19 testing.

He explained that states with no laboratory for testing or with high numbers of COVID-19 cases will be considered first in the deployment.

“From next week, our testing strategy will start expanding and we will see continuous increase from there,” he said.

The DG earlier said government had held back on its planned decision to begin home treatment for COVID-19 patients, noting that the strategy could increase number of infections as most Nigerians live in tight places among other factors.

Ihekweazu had hinted that government was considering home screen due to shortage of bed spaces, but he said the strategy is now impossible due to the Nigerian setting.

The DG said government was still struggling to decide which strategy can help the country halt transmission of infections amidst the challenges it is facing such as shortage of bed space and treatment centres.

He said government could not continue with the policy on institutional isolation of cases for the asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic and severe cases as it has worked in other countries, due to the same challenge of inadequate treatment centres.

“Everyday, we identify new cases, this means that if we continue the policy of institutional isolation, Lagos will need 199 new treatment room”.

Ihekweazu said the shortage of bed space also forced the centre to change its discharge criteria from two tests to a single negative test and also because most cases that tested negative also tested negative for the second time. But he said there will be some exceptions.

“Given the pressure we have on bed spaces especially in Lagos, Kano and FCT, we made a pragmatic decision to move to one negative test as sufficient to discharge people. This is also dependent on being clinically clear of symptoms,” he said.

The DG however noted that government’s biggest challenge is that Coronavirus can be transmitted by asymptomatic patients while feeling well to a more vulnerable person who could die from the disease.

He however said the PTF is thinking on other alternatives and the country’s guidelines may change.

Ihekweazu informed that he engaged with the National Union of Road Transport Workers on how to manage loading centres, for when they are allowed to operate. He said the centre is open to engage with other sectors.

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