TESTING RATE STILL VERY POOR DESPITE SURGING COVID-19 CASES, PHYSICIANS WARN

Medical experts say testing rate for COVID-19 in Nigeria is still very poor amid surge in new cases of the viral infection.

They identified poor testing as part of the reasons why the country is experiencing a second wave of the infection, warning that handling the second wave might be more difficult if the government fails to prioritise testing.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with NAN, a General Medical Practitioner, Dr. Julius Osuntuyi, said, “Nigeria has not been very active in testing and this is one of the reasons why we are experiencing the second wave.

“When we don’t test, we don’t know the level of exposure that we have. Now, because testing rate is very poor, we don’t really know the true situation of things.

“To prevent the escalation of this second wave, the government must prioritise testing.”

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had, on December 18, 2020 officially announced that Nigeria had entered a second wave of the viral infection.

Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this had said that the country was at risk of losing not only the gains from the hard work of the last nine months but also the lives of citizens.

Osuntuyi, in reaction, stressed that the country must place emphasis on testing, saying, “If you don’t diagnose it, how do you offer treatment?”

He explained, “If you don’t test as many people as possible, how do you manage it? The testing rate is very poor. If we test adequately, we will know who to isolate and who to manage.

“People are moving around as if nothing is happening and that is why we have the second wave. If the country had taken testing seriously, by now, five to 10 million people would have been tested.

“But you can see that, so far, less than one million people have been tested. This is not the way to go if the country must contain the second wave.

“The government should know that what it costs to test is cheaper than what it will cost if we don’t test.”

Osuntuyi, therefore, urged the government to increase its testing capacity for COVID-19 and ensure that more Nigerians are tested.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is still a lot of work to be done to scale up testing and appreciate the true situation.

A public health physician, Dr. Dumebi Owa, who also attributed the second wave of the infection to poor testing, said the government must educate the people more for them to appreciate the importance of testing.

Owa said the issue of COVID-19 testing is now ‘business as usual,’ expressing concern that the testing rate is low.

“The government should educate the people and carry them along. If the labs are there and you don’t educate the people, we will keep having issues,” she said.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reported 1,204 new COVID-19 infections in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 91,351, with 75,699 recoveries and 1,318 deaths.

On April 28, 2020, NCDC had announced plan to test two million people by July, but data available on its website showed that a total of 958,911 tests had been carried out as of January 4, 2021.

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