By Egena Sunday Ode
The Federal Executive Council, FEC, has approved the sum of N8.49 billion for the procurement of 12 items in various quantities for the testing of coronavirus pandemic by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The approval followed a memo presented by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on behalf of NCDC at the 11th virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting alongside his colleagues, Ministers of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Environment, Muhammad Mahmood, Ehanire said the procurement of the materials is for the preparation for COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging the world including Nigeria.
He said it is part of the preparedness for community transmission which is going on now and has affected over 586 local government areas and that the materials are needed to expand testing capacities and diagnostic capabilities.
According to him, “This memo is as a result of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic and special intervention fund for COVID-19 which is operated by the Presidential Task Force, it allocates this resources for NCDC preparedness. So we are procuring testing materials right from sample materials to other kits diagnostic in our laboratories systems, to be able to respond properly to community transmission phase.
“We have already made plans to have at least one sample collection center in every local government, minimum of of 774 and these resources will be necessary to go around the 774 local government areas, to ensure that persons in rural areas and small towns are not excluded and to ensure that not only the big cities are the ones that are being attended to.
“So that is the basis for the memo. The cost is N8.49 billion to procure the items that are involved. There are a total of 12 items, the quantities involved are large numbers which will be sent out later.”
Responding to a question on why the PTF was reluctant in introducing PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests, by making available rapid test kits which makes results available in minutes, Ehanire said:
“It is not that nobody is thinking of rapid diagnostic test, it is being used all over the world even in Nigeria today but the the World Healh Organisation (WHO) and other experts, have said that this test is not very reliable in that it also delivered a significant number of false positive or false negative result. So, if you go to a place where a percentage of test result can give you a wrong result, then you have to be careful. Whereas the PRC test, that is the polymerise chain reaction test is accurate and reliable. So if you want to know how accurate a person is positive, that is the test you ought to do, that is the recommendation of World Health Organization.
“Now, science is never certain, there are many ways and avenues by which the quality of the rapid test is still being improved. And as I speak to you now, the Medical Laboratory Science of Nigeria, which is responsible for validating this test, for telling us whether they are reliable or not, whether we should use it or not, they are varying such test now and they will give us their result, whether it is reliable enough or not reliable enough.
“There is the anti-body rapid test and the anti-gem rapid test. So I believe that within a matter of weeks and month, there will be one that will be accurate enough for us to reliable on.
“So, those who do the rapid test now, if it is positive you have to go and confirm with the PRC because the accuracy is questionable. Some of them their accuracy is 60 percent, which means that 40 percent will be wrong, others are 20 percent wrong which is why Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), is not yet officially used in Nigeria. But, I personally believe that as they continue to improve on it within some months we shall be able to use it. Meanwhile we use only the most reliable one which is PCR.”
On the disregard for COVID-19 protocols at the All Progressives Congress flag off campaign in Edo State, the health minister said: