*Reveals Nigeria has only 450 ventilators
By Martins Ifijeh
The National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said contrary to reports that the Kano COVID-19 testing laboratory was closed due to the lack of reagents, it was closed because some of its staff tested positive for COVID-19.
He also mentioned that prior to the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria, the country had only 350 ventilators, and that about 100 had been added as the country prepares for a possible surge of the virus.
Aliyu who spoke during a virtual press briefing by the World Economic Forum/World Health Organisation, and monitored by THISDAY Thursday, said the laboratory was closed to allow for decontamination as they were unsure if the staff contracted it during analysis of samples or from outside the facility.
He said: “The Kano testing laboratory was closed down because one or two persons in the lab acquired COVID-19. It wasn’t very clear whether they acquired it in the facility or it was brought in. This has raised concerns, so we have taken measures to disinfect the place.
“However, samples can still be collected as we have put measures in place to ensure samples are taken. That Kano laboratory serves Katsina and Kaduna, so three states are actually affected by this.”
He added that the laboratory will not be closed for too long as they intend to decontaminate the facility for three or four days.
He also said the PTF on COVID-19 was monitoring the Kano’s situation closely, adding that the federal government presently did not know the true number of deaths from Kano until investigation was concluded.
He said: “There are several scenarios that could be happening; one is that there could be increase in numbers of death due to COVID-19, the other possibility is that it may not be COVID. You are aware a lot of hospitals in Kano have closed so people with medical concerns are having difficulty accessing care, so the deaths may not be related to the virus. We are awaiting the investigation from the team to ascertain the true picture.
On his part, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Lagos had more testing capacity than Kano because the first cases were in Lagos, and that the state used the period to build capacity.
He said: “We will be transferring some of our knowledge from states to states. We are running against time because people are pushing to live normal life. At the same time, we are confronted with the escalation phase of the figures. So how to balance this will be a very difficult decision to be made in the coming week. We wished we had the laboratories and ventilators we need, but we simply don’t, and supply chain of these things are fragmented at the moment, so we will have to make do with what is available,” he added.