COVID-19 test kits now being sold in black markets, NCDC raises alarm

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abuja—Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said yesterday Nigerians have started selling COVID-19 diagnostic test kits in “black markets”.

Speaking at the Presidential Task Force briefing yesterday in Abuja, Ihekweazu warned those who are desperate for test to be careful.

He also called for caution as industries gear up to reopen for businesses. The NCDC DG said there was currently a lot of pressure as companies seek to test their employees before they resume work.

Ihekweazu warned Nigerians to be cautious while purchasing diagnostic test kits.

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“It is important that as we open our industries, we really think about the measures that we advise everyone to carry out and leave testing for the purpose for which it is there.”

“There is a growing black market on rapid diagnostics test kits in Nigeria, we have to be careful in what we buy, how we use it and how we interpret the results that they provide,” he said.

He also disclosed that the Nigeria private-sector coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID) donated N47 million to support sample transportation to boost testing.

Nigerians now dying more from other diseases

Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday raised the alarm that hospitals refusal to treat Nigerians with other ailments was causing more death than COVID-19.

The government also said it was considering locking down areas where there are increasing rate of infections, as opposed to state-wide lockdown.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who raised the alarm at the PTF daily briefing in Abuja, also  lamented that even federal tertiary hospitals were in the forefront of the rejection of patients.

He said:  “The PTF has received rather sadly, reports of continued refusal by medical institutions to receive and treat patients for fear of COVID-19. This has resulted in several unfortunate and avoidable fatalities and statistics have shown that there is a drastic drop in the attention being paid to other ailments not related to COVID-19.

‘’This situation is made worse by the fact that federal tertiary institutions have been mentioned among those rejecting patients for fear of COVID. This not acceptable. We are saddened by this development.

“The Minister of Health has reached out to all medical directors, directing them to continue providing regular medical services, so we do not end up with avoidable deaths. Truth be told, we are having more deaths from non-attendance to other diseases than even COVID-19.

‘’The reason for the greater emphasis on COVID 19 is that it is a pandemic and if not curtailed, has a capacity of wiping out large segments of our population.

“The PTF also urges all the Chief Medical Directors and private health service providers to attend to other health challenges which continue to confront our people on a daily basis.”

FG mulls shift from state-wide to area lock-downs

On area lockdown, National Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, restated the earlier position of the Task Force to engage in precision lockdown of areas with high prevalence of COVID-19. He said: “In terms of what to do with those high risk local councils, our key strategy for areas with high prevalence is definitely to look at greater community engagement and risk mobilization.

‘’We will be engaging in very high level public awareness campaigns in these areas. We will also be pushing for expansion of testing and making testing more accessible and available within the local governments.

“We will also be exploring the possibility of locking down the areas with high incidents, what we call precision lockdown. But this has to be linked with the provision of palliatives. It is easier to lockdown a small part of the country than locking down states or whole regions.  So, that is our strategy.’’

READ ALSO:COVID-19: Lagos battles shortage of reagents, FCT runs out of test kits

Tests, rising cases

Dr Osagie Ehanire disclosed that 49,966 tests had been done so far, with 1,422 conducted in one day.

Expressing  worries over the continued rise in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, Ehanire said: “We are worried about the increasing number of COVID-19 confirmed cases; first because every life matters, but also because of the capacity of our health system to cope. Nigeria currently has over 112 treatment and isolation centres in the 35 states and FCT with over 5,000 beds, but not all states have made it up to at least 300 beds prescribed for isolation and treatment.

“We need to continue increasing bed capacity to match the probable number of patients.

“Though we are in the community transmission phase of response, easing social restrictions is desirable, but only if we can meet up with expectations that will not allow a spike in infection rates. This is what has led certain countries to reintroduce lock-downs.

“Proposals for trial of local remedies for the disease have been sent to the relevant research and testing agencies for scientific evaluation. The Madagascar herbs have been received at the Ministry of Health, and were found to consist of two varieties; one labeled to be for prevention and the other for treatment. Samples have been given to three agencies of the Ministries of Health and  Science & Technology.”

Kogi’s two cases

While the PTF said a federal delegation would be in Kogi State next week to meet with Governor Yahaya Bello, Director General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, said though the two cases assigned to Kogi were being treated in Abuja, they were initially at the FMC in Lokoja before they were referred to the National Hospital in Abuja.

He said: “The Minister of Health was in touch with the governor over the last couple of days because everybody is working very hard to resolve this issue. There is no controversy in the two cases. They followed absolutely normal practice. This were patients that were referred from the Federal Medical Centre to the National Hospital.”

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‘’This is a normal referral pathway when you have a case. The physicians in the National Hospital, I do not have any influence over the work they do. They suspected COVID-19 based on the clinical symptom of the patient, did a swab test and the test came out positive.

‘’The individual lives in Kogi. In what we do in public health, your public health response is based on where you live because that is where your contacts are. So, this is not controversial in any way.”

‘’Standard practice was followed. Once the result came out, the state epidemiologist was informed that he has to do contact tracing around this patient.”

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