Nigeria is likely to record more cases of the Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, infections, as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, progressively expands its testing capacity.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, told journalists while giving an update on COVID-19 in the country, on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Ihekweazu said the COVID-19 is a virus that spreads rapidly from person to person and the NCDC measures must be very stringent.
He said that NCDC scaled up its capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly as Nigerians demanded.
He said that the NCDC has also expanded the criteria for who should be tested.
The NCDC DG said that the agency initially recommended that testing everyone with symptoms of fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing, but only if they had these symptoms as well as a history of traveling to an area where cases were endemic, or being in close contact with someone who was diagnosed as positive.
Mr Ihekweazu noted that expanding the number of laboratories that could perform COVID-19 testing was critical to getting a more accurate sense of how widespread the virus may be in the country.
He noted that the incubation period for COVID19 was generally two-14 days, adding that NCDC was therefore using the window opportunity of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States to promptly detect, isolate and effectively treat cases.
“Like any medical test, there has to be a clinical reason to perform the procedure.
“In the case of COVID-19, someone must have symptoms of the disease like fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
“Travel to an area with active transmission of COVID-19 is also a factor, as well as close contact with someone who is sick or had traveled.
“It’s advisable for doctors to test their patients for other respiratory illnesses before submitting a COVID-19 test.
“At present we do not recommend testing for those that do not have symptoms.
“It can take anywhere from two to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to develop and until they do the test won’t pick up signs of the disease.
“It is more about making sure that you identify whether someone that has exposure develops disease or not.
“Testing them early on in their incubation period doesn’t help settle that question.
“Even those who have been asked to quarantine often will not be tested until they have symptoms,” he explained.
He noted that the COVID-19 test, which involves a nose or a throat swab, could detect the disease but it cannot tell doctors how severe the case would become.
“We want Nigerians to keep in mind that we have the capacity to test but we want to make sure that those tests are used in the best way possible, at the state and national level we don’t have unlimited supplies.
“We want to focus on individuals who are in a high risk situation,” he noted.
The DG said that Nigerians should continue to think ahead about the actions that they could take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in country.
He, however, said that together, Nigerians could slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other.
“Physical social distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.
“This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes.
“Limiting contact with people at higher risk like older persons and those in poor health, keeping a distance of at least two arms-length approximately two metres from others,” he advised.
He again advised that COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation was evolving daily.
“The risk would vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in the country, the risk to Nigerians was considered high.
“This does not mean that all Nigerians will get the disease. It means that there is already a significant impact on our health care system.
“If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact our health care system,” he advised.