Coronavirus: WHO supports Nigeria with diagnostic tools

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will be supporting Nigeria with tools to diagnose coronavirus.

This was disclosed by the WHO Technical Officer, Health Emergency Programme, Dhamari Naidoo, during an interaction with reporters in Abuja on Friday.

He said: “The African region has made considerable progress in preparing for an influenza pandemic. One of the main key components is ensuring that we have laboratory capacity – diagnostic capacity.

“One way in which the WHO is supporting is through the procurement and distribution of diagnostic kits which are being rolled out this week.

“We are focusing our efforts on nine states that have ports of entry (air and water) – Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa states. They are our main priority right now.

“We are also working on strengthening our surveillance at ports of entry, temperature screening and visual observation. Airlines have also been informed and there will be travel forms that will be distributed so we are able to monitor travellers that are coming in from China.

“The WHO is working hard to identify isolation points and treatment facilities in the high risk states. The teaching hospital in Gwagwalada, Abuja, has been identified. It is a brand new facility, but we are working to provide equipment and human resources. Also, we are looking at the IDH in Yaba, Lagos.

“In terms of diagnostic capacity, the National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja, has been operational as of this weekend and was officially announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We are currently working with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) to get them up and running by this weekend.

“Overtime, we will have more diagnostic laboratories within the country, signalling that they are ready to test. One critical action that we are also working on is to ensure that we have sufficient stock piles to respond to any emergencies. The stock piles are PPE masks, protective clothing, some equipment and sample collection materials and so on that we will need to monitor response”

She further said: “Within the NCDC, which WHO is currently supporting, we have activated the coronavirus preparedness working group. This group has been working over the past two weeks and we are doing a multisectorial and multiagency working group. We have representation from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and our partners that are working within Nigeria.

Through this group, we are putting in place our preparedness activities and ensuring that surveillance is up and running and ensuring we have the capacity to provide patient care, diagnostics and so on.”

Globally, there are 28,276 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 3,722 new cases. China alone has 28,060 confirmed cases, 3,859 severe cases and 564 deaths so far. Outside China, there have been 216 confirmed cases from 24 countries, including one confirmed death from the virus.

Apart from the spread through droplets (coughs) and close personal unprotected contact with an infected person (touching, shaking hands), a lot still remain unknown about its spread.

On January 31, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, set up an interministerial and multisectoral preparedness and response committee to develop strategies for the prevention of the importation of the novel coronavirus to the country, to ensure that our ports of entry have sufficient capacity to monitor incoming travellers.

The minister said additional funds of N71 million was approved by the government for the port health services and resources were being provided to scale up surveillance and screening activities that will be done.

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