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29 April 2020

FG targets 2m tests in 3 months as US promises ventilators

United States President, Donald Trump, has assured Nigeria of greater support in its fight against COVID-19, promising to supply more ventilators to Nigeria to support its national response.

The promise came as the Federal Government, yesterday, stated its resolve to conduct two million COVID-19 tests in the next three months, with an average of 50,000 tests in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The government also explained the rationale behind its decision to ease the lockdown imposed on some parts of the country in the wake of the outbreak of the pandemic, saying while it was necessary to gradually return the country to a moderated daily life, the virus remains very potent, virulent and dangerous.

It, however, expressed concerns about a possible spike in infection rate, and that experience drawn from other countries where the lockdown had been eased, showed a low level of compliance with safety protocols and the attendant rise in infections.

These were some of the disclosures at yesterday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke about the pledge by the US, said President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier in the day spoken with President Trump at the behest of the American President. He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari today (yesterday) had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump at the request of the American President. The conversation centred on Nigeria’s response to COVID-19. “President Buhari used the opportunity to brief the American President on the steps Nigeria is taking to contain the spread of the disease. “On his part, President Trump assured that the United States stands in solidarity with Nigeria in this difficult time and promised to send ventilators to support the country in its fight against the pandemic.

In a related development, Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, who explained that the reagents being used for a single test costs between $15 and $20, said the country was, however, targeting two million tests in the next three months.

He also spoke on the need to protect states like Kogi, Cross River and Yobe, which have not recorded any positive case of the virus. Ihekwuazu said: “By discouraging interstate travels, which was what the President announced on Monday, our aim is to limit transmission to areas where cases have not been reported.

Right now, there are four states in Nigeria where we haven’t confirmed a single case. ‘’Our goal right now is to avoid a single case in any of those states. Our goal is to avoid transmission, to avoid infection and to keep the states with no case or few cases exactly that way. “We have learned from other countries that the only way to do this, and it sounds more counter-intuitive, is to test more people.

The laboratory strategic group that is responding to this outbreak has set for itself a target of testing two million people in the next three months. ‘’This is a very ambitious target. We are working very hard with our development partners and all our friends to equip our laboratories to be able to do this. It is going to cost us a lot of money but we cannot do this without a lot of collaboration from everyone.

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