There were indications on Thursday that many states had stopped mass testing for COVID-19 despite the growing fear about the asymptomatic variant of the deadly virus.
While some state officials, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said people were no more coming for the test, others stated that they needed more testing kits from the Federal Government.
But the virologists, who commented on the development, berated state governments, saying stoppage of community testing was wrong and dangerous.
Also, the figures released by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control showed that 2,293 cases were recorded between Sunday and Wednesday.
According to the NCDC, 471 cases were recorded on Sunday while 422 cases were recorded on Monday.
The agency also recorded 610 cases on Tuesday, while 790 cases were recorded on Wednesday, bringing the total number of new infections to 2,293 in four days.
To ensure mass testing, the Director-General of the Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, called for the opening of more testing sites.
She stated, “More testing sites should be set up because Nigeria is a very populous nation.”
People apprehensive about test – Gombe commissioner
On his part, the Gombe State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Habu Dahiru, said people were apprehensive about the test.
He stated, “The challenge is the failure of people to willingly subject themselves for testing. People rarely come and sometimes when they come, they seem to be apprehensive.”
The commissioner urged the Federal Government to supply states with more testing kits and reagents.
Kano tests at health facilities, requires additional testing kits
Also, the Kano State Coordinator on COVID-19, Dr. Tijjani Husain, told The PUNCH that the state needed additional testing kits.
He stated, “The Federal Government can support the state with rapid testing kits. The focus is now at the health facilities where the testing is being conducted due to the change of focus on tackling the pandemic.”
We are not doing mass testing, we test based on situation – Ekiti task force coordinator
The Coordinator, Ekiti State COVID-19 Response Task Force, Prof Mobolaji Aluko, said the state was not conducting mass testing, but testing people based on situations.
Aluko said, “We take the samples and we process them locally. We are not doing mass testing. We are doing testing based on situation. If someone is feeling somehow, we test, if the person is positive, we do contact tracing.”
But the Benue State Government, on its part, expressed concern that residents of the state were not coming for COVID-19 tests.
The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Ngunan Addingi, who said this in a chat with The PUNCH disclosed that 3,000 samples had been collected, out of which 24 were positive.
She said, “Some people do not have information about the third wave of COVID-19 but the state action committee has embarked on sensitization.”
In Sokoto State, it was gathered that mass testing was only done recently at the National Youth Service Corps orientation camp, where 14 new cases were detected.
A medical doctor in one of the isolation centres, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “Prior to that time, we had not conducted mass testing, probably because people will not come out willingly for test.”
Attempts to reach the state Commissioner of Health, Dr Ali Inname, to get his reaction, were not successful, as several calls to his phone number did not go through.
We need more kits – Osun
The Special Adviser to the Osun State Governor on Public Health, Dr. Siji Olamiju, said the state had not stopped COVID-19 test, adding that private health practitioners, had also been given testing kits for them to test suspected cases.
Olamiju said, “We will need more of the kits, but for now, we are still using the ones we got from the NCDC.”
Bauchi hits NCDC over epidemiological data
On his part, the Executive Chairman Adamawa State Primary Health Care Agency, Dr. Suleiman Bashir, faulted the format used by the NCDC in representing COVID-19 cases.
He said Adamawa had been testing but none returned positive. According to him, the reporting format used by the NCDC doesn’t usually reflect details, particularly the number of tests conducted by states.
He said, “The issue is not whether the states have not been testing. We are testing but we don’t get positive results. I think they are two different things because the report by the NCDC only reflects the number of positive cases leaving out the corresponding number of test conducted. It should be that if for instance there are five COVID-19 cases reported for Yola, the data should be able to reflect that the test result is five out of 1,000 sample tests conducted.”
The state commissioner of health, Professor Isa Abdullahi, who also commented, said the state had been testing but results remained negative.
But a professor of virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, lamented the failure of many states to report COVID-19 cases to the NCDC.
Tomori, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said it would be difficult to track the COVID-19 cases in the country when many of the states had failed to conduct tests.
He said, “We were aware of the incompleteness of the NCDC daily reports, with only about 13 of 36 states testing or reporting. It is not just dangerous, it is irresponsible. If over 50 per cent of cases are asymptomatic and not reporting for test, then you know we have a major problem with the actual number of cases we have.
“The less we know, the more our ignorance about the true state of COVID-19 epidemiology and our inability to respond fully, actively, timely and responsibly. Data, though incomplete, show that between week 25 and week 30, the COVID-19 positivity for both inbound and outbound passengers doubled per week. The outbound figure tells about the rate of community spread, while the inbound figure is about importation of the disease. This may better provide the true situation of COVID-19 in Nigeria.”
Decision to stop community testing dangerous, wrong, short sighted – Tomori
Explaining further, he stated, “The decision to stop community testing is dangerous, wrong and short sighted. This is not even palatable to the ears. We are in a raging pandemic. You now say you only test people who presented themselves as being sick.
“How many individuals even go to the hospitals when they are sick? When you look at the data released by the NCDC, you see that this amount of outbound passengers test positive, which means if they didn’t make the decision to travel out of the country, we would not have known they were positive and what happens? They would have infected other individuals.
“This is very dangerous. I don’t even know how to describe how I feel about this. The NCDC is also not helping matters. When they also release results, you see them putting zeros in some states, does it mean those states are not testing? We are not getting the true picture. If we are not careful, things might go worse even with the presence of vaccine.”
Corroborating Tomori, a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr. Oladipo Kolawole, said the stoppage of mass testing by some states was not good, saying many people infected might be asymptomatic.
Kolawole, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said being asymptomatic referred to people who were infected but never developed symptoms during the period of infection.
He said, “In the first instance, based on what is known presently, the transmission of COVID-19 is primarily occurring from individuals who have symptoms, and can also occur just before they develop symptoms when they are in close proximity to others for prolonged periods of time.
“The stoppage of mass testing is not all that good considering the facts that COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, this may encourage the transmission being higher. The asymptomatic individuals are capable of spreading the virus too. This means that infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don’t have symptoms.
“Some data from published studies have suggested that people confirmed to have COVID-19 but who do not have symptoms should be isolated to limit their contact with others. This can only be achieved in the asymptomatic individuals if there is mass testing.”
Similarly, the Director, Africa Centre of Excellence of Genomics of Infectious Disease, Prof Christian Hapi, in an interview with The PUNCH, also slammed state governments for failing in their responsibilities of conducting community testing.
He said, “This is wrong and state governments are to be blamed. We are in a dangerous situation and then you find out states have stopped community testing which means we do not even have the true picture of what is going on. This is terrible and it is putting us in a precarious situation.”
Assistant Professor of Virology, Waidi Sule, said it was dangerous for states to stop mass testing, adding that lives worth more than the cost.
He said, “It is dangerous, especially with the Delta variant which is said to be deadly and spread fast.”
FG says Delta variant not sufficient to declare lockdown
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said the Federal Government is not considering a nationwide lockdown as a result of the third wave of COVID-19.
Ehanire, who spoke on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, during the 18th ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team, explained that though some countries were observing one form of lockdown or the other, Nigeria was not at a level where lockdown would be necessary.
“We are not at the level yet where we are doing any lockdown. And as I speak to you now, several countries are on one kind of lockdown or the other.”
On her part, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, explained that recent delay associated with the application of Moderna vaccines donated by the United States was as a result of laboratory testing where some insignificant quantities had bar-coding errors which had to be sorted.
The Executive Director/CEO of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said the Federal Government had procured over 29 million single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the cost of over N122bn to enable the country to vaccinate 70 per cent of eligible members of the population.
Fresh FM says manager dies of COVID-19, contact tracing begins
In a related development, the management of Fresh FM on Thursday said COVID-19 task forces in Oyo and Ekiti states had begun contact tracing of those David Ajiboye had contact with before his death.
The management of the Fresh FM Nigeria which is owned by a popular musician, Yinka Ayefele, in a statement on Thursday evening by Samson Akindele, explained that although it announced last Monday that Ajiboye died after a brief illness, tests carried out on his samples after he died revealed that he died of COVID-19 complications.
Ajiboye was the Station Manager at Fresh 106.9 FM, Ado-Ekiti until his death.
The management said staff of the station in Ekiti were tested while workers at the private hospital where Ajiboye died in Ibadan as well as family members who visited him there were also being traced and tested to ascertain if any of them had contracted the virus.
The statement read, “Sequel to the public notice we made on Monday, August 9, 2021, to announce the sudden death of our Station Manager at Fresh 106.9 FM, Ado-Ekiti, Mr. David Ajiboye, we hereby notify the general public that our man has been confirmed to have died from COVID-19 complications.”