The Federal Government has lauded the molecular test technique for COVID-19 developed by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, that could give results in less than 40 minutes just as it expressed fears that coronavirus cases might spike in the country as businesses and schools opened.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said at the media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Tuesday in Abuja that the initiative of the institute was commendable.
“It is the SARS-COV-2 Isothermal Molecular Assay (SIMA) which can be performed by low skilled personnel with minimum training. This test which is ten times cheaper than the PCR can be deployed for point of care detection and surveillance.
“The technique which was developed by Dr. Chika Onwuamah will be deployed for use as soon as it is validated by the relevant agencies of the Ministry for specificity and Sensitivity.
“I commend the Management of NIMR led by prof. Salako and particularly Dr. Onwuamah for this laudable breakthrough. I also extend the appreciation of Government to the FATE Philanthropy Coalition for COVID-19 (FPCC) Support Fund for funding the project. The government will continue to support every genuine initiative that contributes to our response plan,” he said.
On the likely spikes in COVID-19 cases following the reopening of airports to international flights, schools and businesses, Mamora, a former Senator disclosed that as at September 29, a total of 58,460 confirmed cases have been recorded with 49,895 cases treated and discharged.
“This result is from a total of 509,555 persons tested for COVID-19. Sadly, the number of deaths as a result of the disease has since crossed the 1,100 mark with 1,111 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the minister said.
The country currently has 7,454 active cases which are being managed at home or are in treatment centres with about half of them in Lagos State.
According to him, unless the country scales up surveillance and review its response plan to integrate new ways to deal with the disease in the country, there may be resurgence.
He said that the number of active cases have continued to drop as the revise in the discharge criteria in line with new knowledge of the disease even as the government continue to strengthen the case management pillar to provide effective and efficient quality care to all those who tested positive whether they were in the facilities or home care.
Mamora said as part of federal government’s commitment to provide infrastructure and resources for infectious disease management, the Infectious Disease Centre at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, a purpose-built infectious disease treatment centre, was built, adding that the centre will go a long way towards improving the capacity to respond to all infectious diseases.
“It is a fall back facility which we do not have to put to use if we observe all necessary preventive measures such as wearing of face masks, observing respiratory hygiene, and physical distancing. In addition, we also need to ensure that we test and isolate all those with symptoms which suggest COVID-19.”
Mamora also disclosed that the top management Committee of the Federal Ministry of Health played host to the Victims Support funds (VSF) who were in the Ministry to officially present some IT equipment to the Federal Ministry of Health to boost the technical capacity of personnel support the response to the pandemic.
“The VSF has been supporting the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19. I wish to use this opportunity to General T.Y Danjuma and the management of the VSF for the initiative. I recall that the fund has also supported the NCDC as well,” he said.
The minister, however, renewed his appeal to state governments to continue to ensure that they step up case findings, sample collection and testing.
“This is the only way we can truly halt the spread of the disease and confirm that we have actually contained the pandemic.
“Our goal is to have at least one standard Infectious Disease centre in every state. We shall therefore work with states establish purpose-built treatment centres that will ensure we are better prepared for infectious disease outbreaks in the country,” he said.