The scourge of the coronavirus is overwhelming. The subtle operations of the virus are particularly disturbing. On early exposure, a carrier may infect two or more persons before manifesting the symptoms and getting diagnosed. In the communities across states in Northern Nigeria, this risk of exposure and exponential spread is scary.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Federal agency saddled with the responsibility of monitoring and containing such public scourge, disclosed there were only five laboratories in Nigeria with the capacity to test for coronavirus. They are located in Lagos, Edo, Osun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, echoed this facility deficiency a bit differently when he alerted that there were no test facilities in all of the 19 northern states and those of the five states of the South East.
The NCDC officials state that “any person who meets the national case definition for #COVID19 is tested at no cost in any of our five molecular laboratories with testing capacity in the country.”
Dr. Ibrahim Duaran, a Kaduna-based medical doctor expressed similar concern as Senator Lawan regarding the negative effects of leaving large swathes of community spaces such as the entire three zones of the North and the additional Southeast zone without the basic diagnostic laboratories for testing and isolation of suspected cases.
He stated that despite the closure of schools, there were other ways the virus could spread that have not been addressed. According to him, “it is a precautionary measure which is good, but when you consider the victims of coronavirus who are people of extreme age, then when you isolate children by closing schools, it is good.”
Dr. Duaran queried, “what then is the plan for the old people? Markets and other public places still operate without any testing centers in the regions. How do we then put the spread of the virus in check?”
Apart from the utter imbalance in the coronavirus diagnostic testing facilities, the national average of testing centre per citizen in Nigeria is one centre to 40 million people.
It is frightening, particularly in the Northern parts of the country given the region’s susceptibility to diseases and sparse health care.
Bordered by Chad, Niger Republic, Benin Republic, and Cameroon, there is a long span of land border space that remains unmanned and in frequent breach. For cross border communities, the official claim of border closure is merely a claim that is hardly enforced.
There have been suspected cases in Katsina and Kano states recently. Kabir Mustapha, the Permanent Secretary, Katsina state Ministry of Health, said that the patient who opted for self-isolation, but later tested negative, returned from Malaysia and showed symptoms.
Kano state announced three suspected cases that also tested negative. Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, the State Commissioner for Health, announced the results of the tests allaying the fears of members of the public.
Presently, governments and health personnel in affected countries are seeking ways to reduce the test time and make the kits available and cheaper for citizens to use. The total figures of coronavirus patients in Nigeria has risen to 12 after four new cases were confirmed in Lagos State on Thursday.
More than 240,000 people have now been confirmed with the virus globally, of which at least 85,000 have recovered, while more than 9,800 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.