Experts urge government to set up laboratories As the COVID-19 pandemic rages in the country, 20 states are yet to have testing laboratories. Some of the states experiencing community transmission are among the top 10 with the disease.

This is happening as Nigeria’s testing capacity still trails behind what obtains in neighboring African countries. As at Friday, Nigeria had 26 laboratories spread iacross 17 states. The country has also tested 40, 043 samples. This is far below the target set by the Federal Government to have about 68 test centers for COVID-19. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in its strategy document published on April 15, projected establishing 68 testing centers and two mobile laboratories within 45 days.

States without COVID-19 laboratories have lamented that they encounter hurdles sending samples to Abuja or other neighboring states, as well as long waiting time for results. They said the absence of testing centers was one of their major challenges in the ongoing fight against the virus. Some states have to wait for over a week to get test results, with some of their drivers getting infected in the process of transporting samples.

Checks by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bayelsa, Enugu, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Niger, Jigawa, Yobe, Ekiti, Bauchi, Ondo, Zamfara, Abia, Taraba, Kogi, Cross River, Katsina, Gombe, Kwara have no COVID-19 testing laboratories. Some states have laboratories in hospitals or private facilities that could be upgraded for COVID-19 testing, however, that has not been done till date.

Ogun State, for instance, has established a molecular laboratory but still sends samples to Osun because it awaits NCDC accreditation. The state is in close proximity with Lagos, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. However, some states can boast of two or three laboratories.

They are Kano, Ogun, Lagos, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna, Sokoto, Edo, Anambra, Borno, Osun, Plateau , Oyo, and Ebonyi, among others. They, however, said there was minimal support from the NCDC or the Federal Government in setting up or funding most of the laboratories. In Gombe State, there is no testing laboratory for COVID-19. Here, samples are sent to the NCDC in Abuja for daily test. The state’s focal officer on COVID-19 response, Dr Mohammed Kwami, said the test results usually come out in at least 48 hours, after which they are scanned and sent back to the Special Task Force on COVID-19 secretariat.

He said taking the samples to Abuja on a daily basis was not convenient, but added that they are using the channel as a temporary measure, pending when the state would get its own laboratory.