Tuesday, 19 January 2021 06:50

Rapid tests to start in schools, workplaces soon

The Federal Government has developed new guidelines for the use of rapid diagnostic test (RDTs) kits in congregate settings like schools, work places, NYSC camps, Military camps etc.

It has also begun the deployment of RDTs in five tertiary hospitals within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The initiative will be rolled out in other states by February.

RDTs typically give test results within 30 minutes of use, unlike laboratory PCR machines that can take between 24 to 72 hours to diagnose.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated  this in Abuja on Monday.

He said, “We have now developed some new guidelines on the use of rapid diagnostic tests in Nigeria, targeting primary congregate settings. So schools, workplaces, NYSC camps, Military camps wherever people gather together we are going to be deploying the use of the RDTs.

“We have started the rollout specifically in hospitals today in 5 tertiary hospitals within the FCT today. There are three federal establishments and two States tertiary hospitals in Maitama and Asokoro. Our role is to roll this out to other tertiary hospitals in Nigeria from February.

“These guidelines are not just for our procurement, we are also encouraging state governments, the private sector and whoever wants to deploy them; these guidelines are now available on our website. It gives a lot of details on what RDT test to procure, the process for testing, how you need to set up, the infection, prevention and control standard you need, the minimum personnel involved, and critically, we have an algorithm to use in terms of how to interpret the test and how to link back into PCR testing if it is needed.

“So we think that with the deployment of rapid diagnostic test kits broadly in Nigeria will scale up the testing in Nigeria and make sure that we find as many cases as possible and bring them into care.”

He added: “In addition, you will remember that when we started this response we had four key strategies on testing. There were the open PCR platforms which we have enabled the deployments across the country. Secondly, was the high throughput that was serving the HIV programs. Thirdly, was the deployment of gene xpert labs testing facility primarily used for tuberculosis and was converted for covid-19 with some adaptations. Shortly was the role of the private sector laboratories.

“In many countries like Nigeria, the private sector actually provides a significant proportion of essential health care services altogether to the population. So between January 2020 and 2021, we have activated in total 112 laboratories with the capacity to test for covid-19. Out of these 112, 74 are public sector laboratories owned and fully funded by various arms of government while 38 and in the private sector. 33 are completely private sector laboratories while the others are part of corporate labs such as NLNG, Total-supported laboratories that are also serving the population communities around them.

“Unfortunately we have not fully optimized the capacity we have in our private sector yet. In South Africa 60 percent of all the tests done since the beginning of the outbreak all together, were done by private sector laboratories. So we have to push a little bit harder. In Nigeria, 30 percent of our over 1 million tests have been done in the private sector and the public sector obviously still bears the burden of testing.”

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