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WHO urges Nigeria to decentralise coronavirus testing

The World Health Organisation has commended Nigeria for being able to set up 61 laboratories that can test for COVID-19 in the last six months.

The WHO, however, added that there was a need to decentralise testing considering Nigeria’s huge population.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said at a webinar on Thursday that when COVID-19 hit Africa in February, only two labs could test for the virus on the whole continent. But Moeti said things had since changed.

The WHO regional director said, “In Ethiopia, there are now 45 laboratories equipped to diagnose COVID-19 and in Nigeria, it is 61. Six months ago, only two laboratories in the African region – South African and Senegal – could test for this virus. Ghana is establishing over 70 treatment centres among which 57 are now operational in addition to 12 self-isolation units.

“Seychelles has kept cases low by leveraging on their strong primary health care network to diagnose and care for patients and repurposing two hospitals as treatment centres.

“Access to medical oxygen is also improving. With the number of oxygen plants in the region rising from 78 to 119 and the availability of oxygen concentrators has doubled from 3,000 to close to 6,000.”

Responding to a question from newsmen, Moeti said due to Nigeria’s population, there was a need to increase the testing capacity.

She said the WHO was aware of the challenges faced by many African countries as regards the procurement of testing kits.

Moeti said, “Nigeria has done a lot to increase the number of people being tested but we acknowledge there is room for them to have been able to do more in terms of testing by population and seeing a proportion of the test being negative.

“So, there is room to improve in Nigeria like in many other countries in Africa. It is confronted by the challenge of access to testing supplies in adequate quantities. I think they have tried their best to work with ourselves and the African CDC and other partners to procure what is required.”

Also speaking, WHO Emergency Operations Manager for Africa, Dr Michel Yao, said the number of laboratories should be increased as this would reduce the testing time.

Yao said a situation whereby test results would be delayed is not good.

“The number of laboratories (in Nigeria) could be and should be increased because the idea is to avoid heavy logistics for this testing. So, sending tests far away delays the response and also delays the action to be taken even in a case that could have turned out positive. So, a further decentralisation is critical,” Yao added.

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