COVID-19: Nigeria Moves Closer to Local Production of Testing Kits


•National Biotechnology Development Agency driving breakthrough; may roll out home-made reagents soon
•Cases now 7261, with 2007 discharged and 221 deaths
•Buhari bars govt officials, religious leaders from Sallah homage, to observe Eid prayers at home with family

By Bennett Oghifo in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, with agency report

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has successfully validated the first phase of the Viral Ribonucleic Acid Extraction which should enable local production of cheap testing kits for Coronavirus.

This is coming on the heels of the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to bar top government officials and religious leaders from paying him homage during this year’s Eid celebration expected to take place tomorrow, as part of efforts to contain COVID-19.

On the same day, 245 new Coronavirus cases were recorded in Nigeria, bringing the tally to 7261, with 2007 discharged and 221 deaths.

The validation of the first phase of the Viral Ribonucleic Acid extraction took place last Thursday in the laboratory of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Abuja.

The Director-General of NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, told the News Agency of Nigeria after the exercise that the success of the validation was important not only to Nigeria but Africa as a whole.

“The success of this validation shall enable us to massively produce test kits so that more people would be tested for COVID-19, not only in Nigeria but in Africa. The immediate aim is to produce reagents for real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction, and remember, recently the lack of reagents stalled work in Kano and molecular diagnosis could no longer take place,” Akpa said.

He also recalled that the absence of the same reagent equally stalled COVID-19 diagnosis in Lagos for many days.

“This project is, therefore, designed to enable not only Nigeria but the whole of Africa to put the issue of shortage of reagents behind,” the DG said.

He disclosed that the project was a Pan-African project whose partners include Ethiopia, NCDC and the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, among others with funding coming from the African Development Bank.

A scientist at NABDA and Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, Dr. Rose Gidado, said the exercise was historic.

She said the validated RNAswift Test Kit for COVID-19 was developed by Dr. Alison Nwokeoji, a Nigerian scientist at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
“If we set up more testing centres, we can easily do 50,000 with automation,’’ the scientist said.

She added that the project was a partnership involving NABDA, NCDC, Ethiopia, NVRI Vom, NIMR, and the Ministries of Science and Technology, Health and Agriculture.

Buhari Bars Govt Officials, Religious Leaders from Sallah Homage

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, President Muhammadu Buhari has said he would not receive any homage during this year’s Eid celebration expected to take place tomorrow.

The President will also observe this year’s Eid prayers at home with his family, the presidency said in a statement, yesterday, by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu.

Traditionally during Eid celebration, the president is paid homages by top government officials, political leaders, community heads, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and children.

Shehu said these were the resolves of the president as the month-long Ramadan is fast is coming to an end and Eid-el-Fitr celebration is around the corner.

According to Shehu, the decision was in observance of the lockdown measures put in place in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja “to save lives and protect people from all dangers.”

He also said the move was in line with the directive of the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III suspending Eid congregational prayers across the country as well as the protocol against mass gathering issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

Sultan Abubakar III also suspended all prayers, gatherings in the outskirts of towns and cities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that in states where government had reached decision to mark the Eid-el-Fitri, Muslims should observe social distancing, wear face masks and use hand sanitisers provided for worshippers to check the spread of the COVID-19.

The Sultan also warned Muslim leaders against unguarded utterances for the overall interest of the Nigerian Muslim community.