COVID-19 Update: Labs Can Now Test 3,500 People Daily But Lack Enough Samples

Nigerians are feeling uncertain, and their searches show it. Here’s what they reveal and how technology can help

A lot has happened since the last edition of this column was published. Presently, #ENDSARS protesters have defied all protocols to demand an end to police brutality and complete dissolution of the SARS police unit.

The Lagos state governor also granted Nollywood actress Funke Akindele and her husband pardon after they were judged guilty by a Lagos Magistrate court for violating COVID-19 protocols in April.

In the midst of all that, people have been carrying out tests for the COVID-19 virus. 19,498 Nigerians tested for the infection from October 5 to 12. Out of that number, only 965 results came back positive.

Data for the previous week shows that 29,260 people were tested and 1,005 results came back positive. A lesser number of tests was carried out this week which probably explains in part why a lesser number of results returned positive.

The drop in the number of tests was almost 10,000 and yet the drop in the number of infection was only 40. This suggests that perhaps there are more infected cases out there that remain undetected.

These are the other events that happened relating to the COVID-19.

Nigeria to place travel ban on travellers who refuse to take COVID-19 test

The federal government has announced its move to place a travel ban on those who have come into the country from overseas but have refused to carry out a repeat COVID-19 test after their first seven days in the country.

The announcement was shared on the website of the Presidential Task Force in the latest guidelines for the COvid-19. The PTF protocol reads, “The protocol warns that passengers who fail to show up for a repeat test after 7 days may attract sanctions such as suspension of passports or inclusion on a travel no-fly list for 6 months, and denied foreign travel for the same period.”

According to the directive, airlines will also be sanctioned with a fine of $3,500 per passenger if they are found to be violating the pre-boarding COVID-19 protocols.

Part of the protocol includes a negative PCR result from a test that was taken by the traveller no later than 96 hours before departure.

Upon arrival in the country, the passengers are then required to take a repeat COVID-19 test after adhering to a strict 7-day self-isolation process.

Health Minister says Nigeria can now test 3,500 people daily

In the daily press briefing last Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that the country’s testing capacity has improved from what it was before. This is in response to the reopening of schools as well as the resumption of international flights to and from the country.

According to Ehanire, “The risks that the movement of travellers create, can only be countered with improved surveillance programs.”

Each state now has at least one testing laboratory and this has significantly increased the number of tests that can be carried out daily to 3,500. However, despite the increase in capacity, the laboratories are underperforming and carrying out lesser tests because people are not sending in samples enough.

Ehanire said, “We are, however, still testing well below that capacity, because laboratories are receiving fewer samples than they could handle, leaving some partners to doubt our reports.”

The Minister went on to say that state governments should improve on sample collection and that people who have come in contact with infected persons should make themselves available in the laboratories for testing as well.

PTF warns against second wave of COVID-19

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has alerted Nigerians that care must be taken to avoid a resurgence of the COVID-19 infections in the country. During the task force briefing in Abuja, the PTF chairman explained that after observing other countries, it is evident that Nigeria can experience a resurgence if the appropriate protocols for containing the virus are not adhered to.

Recall that different parts of the economy have been reopened strategically after being shut down since March. The Lagos state government only recently reopened cinemas and other recreation centres. Schools across the country have resumed for lectures while religious centres have also resumed worship services for their members.

Some of the protocols for the different reopenings include a reduction in capacity as well as reduced operating hours, provision of sanitizers, correct use of face masks and crowd control.

Emphasizing the need to observe the protocols, Mustapha said, “no nation can be said to be immune to a possible second wave if the guidelines and protocols are not adhered to strictly.”

Johnson & Johnson pauses vaccine trial

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial which began on September 23 has been paused due to an illness that was developed by one of the patients undergoing the trial.

The illness has not been described in detail by the multinational company but it said in a statement, “We must respect this participant’s privacy. We’re also learning more about this participant’s illness, and it’s important to have all the facts before we share additional information.”

The clinical trial by J&J is being carried out on 60,000 participants. In a study that large, adverse medical reactions are expected to occur, according to the company. This pause is not a clinical hold but only a study pause, which means that the clinical trials will most likely resume after a few days.

In the meantime, the online system used to enrol patients into the study has been closed, and the data and safety monitoring board convened on Monday to review the case.

Additional developments about the illness may be shared by the company later. In the race to manufacture a vaccine for the COVID-19, this study pause is a small but expected occurrence in the vaccine trial and will most likely happen again because of the size of the trial.

Cristiano Ronaldo tests positive for COVID-19

Christiano Ronaldo

Portuguese and Juventus football star, Christiano Ronaldo, tested positive for the COVID-19 on Monday. He featured in one friendly game for Portugal against Spain and a Uefa Nations League match against France. His next game was to be against Sweden today. However, following his positive test result, he has left the squad to self-isolate.

The rest of the football team has since been tested but all results came back negative and the team has since reported to Fernando Santos for training. Ronaldo’s test result was confirmed by the Portuguese football federation in a statement which read in part, “The Portugal international is doing well, without symptoms, and in isolation.”

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