FG to convert Tuberculosis testing machines to COVID-19, says Minister

By Amara Christa

ABUJA — THE Federal Government said it had concluded arrangements to convert tuberculosis’ diagnostic machines in the country coronavirus’ detection machines.

This came as retired health workers recalled by the federal government to assist in combating the disease reported for duties.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed this speaking at a press briefing held by the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus,to update the nation of the state of coronavirus outbreak in the country, said the 300 Gene Xpert machines used for tuberculosis woud be converted to testing COVID-19 detection.

Government’s action came following the increasing number of persons infected with the virus, current put at 135. The minister said the Gene Xpert machines were expected to be put to use within the next two to three weeks.“ Noting that the high number of cases recorded in Lagos and Abuja was due to their functions as gateway for international air travel, Ehanire said the incidence of new cases into Nigeria would reduce the number of implications as a result of the closure of the airport and land borders.

“We will be dealing largely with those which have already been brought into the country and are being transmitted from person to person. The presidential task force later today will review activities and update measures to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians.

“Additional strategies are being developed to intensify contact tracing to support prompt case detection, isolation, and treatment in order to reduce the spread of this infection.,” he said.

He disclosed that retired staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the Ministry of Health have reported for duties.

According to him, NCDC has  engaged hundreds of ad-hoc staff to support call centres, contact tracing and laboratory work. He added that preparations were in full gear for about 1,000 beds in Abuja, to be used immediately as isolation centres if the need arises. “Ehanire also said more testing sites have been opened in Ibadan and Abakaliki, while existing laboratories were being optimized in their performance.

He added that more laboratories would join the network of molecular diagnostic laboratories for COVID-19 in Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Sokoto states soonest.

Speaking also at the event Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe ihekweazu who said there was ongoing follow up to trace about 5,000 contacts across the country, appealed to residents of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states  to make the job easier by obeying the Presidential directive to stay at home

He said:”The strategy that we are still implementing is one of containment; it means that we are still at the point when we think we have the window of opportunity to identify all the cases and confirm if they have the disease, bring them into care, confirm all their contacts, follow up on each of them, make sure that they do not have the disease, and for those who have the disease bring, them into care.

“This is one of the reason the President asked us what we needed and gave us two weeks to free up the road and enable us to have the space to do this effectively.

“This comes at some pain to many Nigerians in Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja, but it is a necessary recommendation in order that public health workers working particularly in Lagos and Abuja have the opportunity to reach all of these contacts and make sure that they are okay. Those that have any symptoms are brought into care as quickly as possible.

“With our effort focused on those that are infected and their contacts and secondly among everyone else, together we can control the further spread of this outbreak. But we really need everyone to support us, as we hope to use this small window of opportunity to see whether we can bend the curve, get this outbreak under control and get back to day-to-day life.”

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