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Clarification of COVID-19 Testing Expansion in Nigeria in light of Comments by Officials of Cross River State

By NCDC Communications
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20 June 2020 | Abuja – The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of recent statements regarding the country’s COVID-19 testing processes, by the Commissioners of Information and Health in Cross River State.

Given our mandate to protect the health of all Nigerians, we are obliged to state the facts.

The NCDC is leading the expansion of testing capacity for COVID-19 in Nigeria. As part of the national strategy to scale up COVID-19 testing published in March 2020, we are leveraging GeneXpert equipment currently used for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. The use of GeneXpert will significantly scale-up testing for COVID-19 and improve turn-around time for results in the country.

Nigeria is one of many countries around the world using the GeneXpert system to scale up testing capacity. This expansion process is in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), and supported by partners at USCDC, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and others.

There are 400 sites in Nigeria with GeneXpert equipment for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. However, we have prioritised the roll-out of GeneXpert in states where there is a high level of community transmission and states with limited or no laboratory capacity for the diagnosis of COVID-19 at the moment. These are Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Benue, and the FCT. Already, we have worked with NTBLCP and our partners to activated two GeneXpert laboratories in Kaduna and Nasarawa States. Eventually, we plan to roll out the GeneXpert testing sites for COVID-19 in every state in Nigeria.

The statements by the Cross River Commissioners of Information and Health are a misinterpretation of the Federal Ministry of Health's COVID-19 testing strategy and efforts to protect the health of Nigerians from this disease. We would like to state unequivocally, that there is no plan to transport positive samples from one state to the other.

One of our responsibilities at NCDC is to scale-up the capacity for COVID-19 diagnosis in Nigeria as we respond to this pandemic. Our ability to promptly detect cases and halt the spread of the virus in our communities, is largely dependent on our ability to scale-up access to testing for Nigerians.

We remain strongly committed to our mandate to protect the health of Nigerians. We urge the public to remain aware of the risks of COVID-19 and to adhere to the preventive measures advised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health. Visit covid19.ncdc.gov.ng for real-time updates and guides on the COVID-19 outbreak.