- Says Nigeria is third African country to develop testing capacity
As part of efforts to guard against the entry of Novel Coronavirus into the country, the Director General, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Thursday, said the federal government has introduced additional inspection measures at the point of entry at all airports in the country.
In addition, there is a coronavirus preparedness group in the country today, that meets every day, to review the situation. The group is being spearheaded by the NCDC.
Speaking on ‘The Morning Show,’ on Arise Television, a THISDAY sister broadcast organisation, the NCDC boss said immediately his agency heard about the infectious disease around December last year, they started thinking and working with international collaborators and partners on how to tackle its spread. “We are the third country in Africa to announce publicly that we now have the capacity to test for coronavirus. This is really an incredible effort and over the next few years we are going to expand it,” he said.
He pointed out that the preparedness and response to infectious diseases’ threats remains the core mandate of the NCDC.
He commended the federal government as well as Nigerians for taking the decision a few years ago, to set up a specialist agency with a clear mandate to recruit staff and develop expertise to advise governments on what to do in events like the raging coronavirus, which originated from China.
Ihekweazu, described the virus as a global health security, adding that is not something you can reduce to any geographical location anywhere in the world.
“Here, global collaboration is extremely important. So, we started working to learn as quickly as possible about this new virus. When you have a new virus, nothing is known about it. The first thing is to learn. The two new characteristics for any new virus is transferability, that is how it passes from one person to another, and how many people pass away from this virus.
“So, we keep learning new things every day to implement preparedness measures. So, today, we have a coronavirus preparedness group that meets every day at the NCDC to do a risk analysis, understand where we are and the risk for the country.
“The other step is to prevent it at the point of entry. So, together with our colleagues at the ports, we have increased screening. Anyone that passed through the airport since yesterday (Wednesday), would have noticed the introduction of new measures and more questions being asked about where their trip originated from, because there is no direct flight from China to Abuja or Lagos.”
He added: “So, we ask these questions to establish travel history. Thirdly, if you have symptoms and you have returned from China within the last 14 days, the NCDC and our partners at the state level, would send a team to your home, if you call a toll free number, we would take the sample to our lab either in Lagos or Abuja, that is ready, to make this diagnosis and make sure you are treated so as to reduce the spread.”
He stressed the need to develop the expertise against such risk in the country.
“We are going ramp up a few facilities to respond better. We might not be able to build a hospital in 10 days like China did, but we are putting all the facilities ready in case there is an outbreak,” he added.
“We have received assurance from the Chinese government that they are doing everything to control the outbreak,” he added.
“We have a network of labs across the country and we have increased our diagnostic capacity,” he said.