* NCDC adds 3 new laboratories
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government has started discussions with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and even equipment like ventilators used in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known on Friday at a media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus, said that clinical trials and other processes are ongoing at the treatment centres in Lagos to try and validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.
He also disclosed that a special cargo aircraft shall be leaving Nigeria in a few days time for China to collect gifts of medical supplies from the country donated by a group of Chinese companies operating in Nigeria.
Also, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has revealed that three new laboratories for testing coronavirus infection came on stream on Thursday thereby scaling up the number of tests to 3,000.
Speaking during the briefing, Ehanire said that due to the looming global shortages of protective equipment for Covid-19, the federal government had begun consultations with local private sector concerns to explore the possibility of production of face masks, gloves, sanitizers and even ventilators.
According to the minister, “Directors at the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore potentials for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and even equipment like ventilators.
“This is in view of the looming global shortages of medical supplies for response, due to high demand by all countries. Clinical trials and other processes are also ongoing to validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.”
Ehanire said the ministry had been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of the group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria, adding that a special cargo aircraft will leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items.
He listed the items donated by the Chinese companies to include commodities, personal protective equipment and ventilators.
“Of great interest is an 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers, who shall come along with the flight,” he said.
The minister, who stated that the global number of COVID-19 cases has crossed the one million mark just three months after the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China, urged Nigerians not to take the situation lightly.
He gave an update of the state of the outbreak in Nigeria, saying: “We have recorded 190 positive cases as at afternoon on Friday.
“We have recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, so that cumulatively, as of the 3rd of April, we have190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, across 12 states and the FCT, two fatalities and 20 cases discharged from treatment. There are 98 in Lagos State, 48 in FCT, Osun 20, Oyo 8, Akwa Ibom 5, Edo, Kaduna and Ogun four each, Bauchi three, Enugu and Ekiti two each, while Rivers and Benue have one each.”
The ministry further said that there may be indications of sustained community transmission of the virus in the sense that 30% of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information, while 51% were imported cases and 19% were contacts of known cases.
He said that health officials were using the small window of opportunity remaining of the lockdown to intensify investigations to identify cases and their sources.
He said that the ministry expected to see an increase in cases as a measure of improvement in case finding.
“If social distancing and other measures are adhered to, the incidence of positives cases can be controlled. We have tested nearly 3,000 samples so far in Nigeria, we are working hard to scale up our capacity in a targeted approach.
“Coronavirus Treatment Centre Accreditation Committee was inaugurated yesterday by the Minister of State for Health and has begun developing an accreditation checklist, as well as a protocol for management of isolation centres,” he said.
Ehanire added that the ministry was compiling a list of trained health workers to man the new centres as they become operational.
The minister denied knowledge of the alleged escape of Covid-19 positive patient from the isolation facility in Bauchi State.
Also speaking during the press conference in Abuja, the NCDC D-G said that the protective kits received from the Chinese philanthropist, Jack Ma, was being validated by a team of experts before being deployed for use.
While providing further updates, Ihekweazu said that about 6,700 contacts have been identified, out of which 71 per cent had been traced.
He also said that 4,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out.
According to Ihekweazu, the centre had activated three new reference laboratories, two in Lagos and additional one in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
With the three new laboratories, he said the country now has eight reference laboratories for the testing of Covid-19 cases, while another laboratory located in Kano will be activated latest by Monday to further boost the testing capacity in the country.
He explained that NCDC was considering opening up sample collection centres in places like Lagos and Abuja by next week in order to speed up the process of testing the samples.
He also said that NCDC is focusing more attention on the upsurge in coronavirus infection in Osun State to see how the spread can be halted.
On whether the centre will recommend the enforcement of use of face mask by all Nigerians, Ihekweazu said the issue was being studied, adding that the decision will be taken by the government at the appropriate time.