In order to improve its testing capacity for COVID-19, the Nigerian government has developed a molecular test kit named the SARS-COV-2 Isothermal Molecular Assay (SIMA).
The minister of state for health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, made this known at the bi-weekly Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.
Mr Mamora said the test kit developed by the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) can produce results in less than 40 minutes.
This is faster as compared to the Reverse Transcription- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) which is currently the main source of testing in the country. This method of testing takes several hours to produce results.
“The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research has developed a molecular test for COVID-19 that can give results in less than 40 minutes.
“It is the SARS-COV-2 Isothermal Molecular Assay (SIMA) which can be performed by low skilled personnel with minimum training,” Mr Mamora said.
He also said the kit is ten times cheaper than PCR and can be deployed for point of care detection and surveillance.
Nigeria is still struggling to ramp up COVID-19 testing mainly due to lack of adequate equipment and reagents needed to carry out the PCR test.
Tests to diagnose viral infections are key to controlling the pandemic, but Nigeria, like many other African countries, could not make any locally and was importing the kits.
On April 28, the Nigerian government announced its target of testing at least two million people within the next three months.
The target elapsed with Nigeria failing to cover at least 30 per cent of the two million.
“The main challenge Nigeria has had with testing has been its inability to test as many people as possible. Inability to secure test kits in a world where they are still in high demand means that cheaper, alternative, mass-produced options are being sought all over the world,” Ikemesit Effiong, a forensic expert, told PREMIUM TIMES.
As of Tuesday evening, 509,555 of Nigeria’s 200 million have already been tested for COVID-19, a potentially dangerous pneumonia-like disease. This resulted in the discovery of 58,460 infections thus far.
But there has also been a significant reduction in the number of daily infections across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
For about a month, Nigeria has been recording daily figures below 300, an indication that the country may have gone past its worst phase of the virus.
Health authorities, however, warn against a new wave of the virus if citizens continue to violate COVID-19 rules.