A group known as Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has asked the federal and state governments to increase their testing capacity in order to have a full picture of the country’s COVID-19 status.
In a statement by Adewale Adeoye, its publicity secretary, ASCAB said without mass and effective testing of Nigerians, the daily figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would fall short of representing the actual extent of the outbreak.
Noting that Nigeria currently has one of the lowest testing capacity per average in the world, the group said this will continue to “raise fundamental issues about how long Nigerians will live with the virus”.
It said second and third waves of infections in the country are almost certain unless drastic steps are taken to improve the testing capacity.
“Nigeria is far from knowing her real coronavirus pandemic status. The total number of Nigerians confirmed positive as last week was about 4,300. This does not appear to reflect the reality given the poor public access to testing,” it said.
“It is unfortunate that Nigerian testing capacity is lower than what is obtainable in Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa.
“Nigeria is on the lowest rung of the ladder when compared with other African countries. For instance, Uganda has 60,000 tests amidst shortages of test kits raised by the Uganda Virus Research Institute. Ghana already tested 160,000 samples so far; South Africa as of this month had 439,559 total tests.
“In Nigeria, 32,942 tests have been carried out so far in a population of 200 million people.
“We cannot claim to know the average number of people that have contracted coronavirus in Nigeria. Brazil tests about 8,000 people in just one day. It means in 10 days, Brazil tests 80,000 people, almost three times the number of tests carried out in 60 days.”
It expressed regret that private and public hospitals have been sending patients away over the fear that they may have contracted the disease thereby raising the prospect of fatalities unrelated to COVID-19.
The group said access to medicare by Nigerians continues to suffer and has been compounded by the lack of adequate protective gear for health workers.
“The reality is that more people are likely to die from diseases like malaria and Lassa Fever since many of them may not have access to medicare given the current practice of private and public hospitals sending patients back home for fear of COVID-19,” it said.
“This is the time for Federal and State Governments to provide protective gear for all health workers. Private hospitals must be made to comply with best global practices by providing their workers with necessary protective garments.”
The group asked the government to run an inclusive anti-COVID-19 policy that will involve the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Nurses and Midwives Association, and the civil society in the collective drive to end COVID-19.