By Martins Ifijeh and Rebecca Ejiforma
Panelists at the Arise News Channel Global Briefing on COVID-19 have described Nigeria’s testing rate for the virus as very poor, saying with the slow pace, the country’s lockdown may run into several months.
They also said that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) must reduce its criteria for testing if it does not want the country’s COVID-19 infection rate to snowball in the coming weeks.
Sharing his thoughts as one of the panelists Thursday, a Professor of Virology and former Vice Chancellor, Redeemer’s University, Prof. Tomori Oyewole, said the case definition protocol of the federal government had made it difficult for the country’s lead agency against the pandemic, NCDC to test high number of Nigerians who have been clamouring to have their samples tested for the disease.
“NCDC said you must have come down with one or more symptoms of the disease before you can be tested. The problem with this case definition is that there are a lot of persons who will not come down with the symptoms even though they are infected. These categories of persons have the capacity to infect people around them. So if government ignores such persons, be rest assured that our infection rate will increase and the lockdown will continue for several months.
“The incubation period for the disease is one to 14 days. It can fully incubate in any of those days. So there is no point waiting for the 14th day or when symptoms are obvious before testing can be done. This has limited a lot of Nigerians from being tested, and this is dangerous for our fight against the disease.”
He advised the federal government to review the criteria for testing, adding that anyone who has had contact with a positive person or who comes into the country from a high risk nation should be tested.
He said this was for the collective good of the country.
He said the capacity of the laboratories in the country had not been overstretched, adding that he recognizes that one of the challenges of NCDC is the few number of reagents for the testing.
“We must do all we can to increase this, as well as go all out to test Nigerians for the disease. This is a major route to addressing the outbreak in our nation,” he added.
On his part, a Security Analyst, Seyi Adetayo, said one of the challenges federal and state governments must be ready to tackle during the lockdown was insecurity, adding that most of the criminals are people who depend on daily income to feed.
He said: “In my community, we do vigil daily because of the high rate of crime. Government must deploy police to every nook and cranny of affected places. They shouldn’t only concentrate on highways. Their presence should be felt in suburbs and streets. This will help a lot in tackling the menace.”
On why Nigerians are not totally observing the sit-at-home order by the federal government, he said the mistake was made from the onset, noting that religious leaders would have been carried along from the first day.
He said: “Nigerians have no much faith in the government. They respect their imams and pastors more than government. Government should have liaised with these religious leaders, who in turn would have talked to their subjects before government declared the lockdown.
“This can still be done. Government should take these religious leaders as critical stakeholders; talk to them, and then watch to see how much people will obey the lockdown directive,” he added.
Also sharing his thoughts, another security analyst, Kabiru Adamu, said the Inspector General of Police should identify the hotspots and put interventions in place against their plans, adding that in the coming days there are going to be more cases unless the security agencies step up their game.
He said: “I am not in support of bringing the military to the streets to tackle the rising insecurity, except the police say they do not have the capacity to tackle the challenges. If government must bring in the military, there must be templates and standard operating procedure so they do not infringe on the rights of the people,” he added.