Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has asked Nigerians to disregard a statement from some anonymous persons claiming that they were ignored by NCDC officials when they sought to be tested for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), having, according to them, been exposed to people who have tested positive for the virus.
A few days ago, some anonymous persons claimed that they wanted to be sure of their COVID-19 status before going into self-isolation, saying that they had been exposed to people who had tested positive for the virus.
They claimed in a statement circulated on social media that they first called the NCDC’s toll-free number and did not get the expected result. They proceeded to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada, and they were informed that tests for the coronavirus were not done there but at an isolation centre, they claimed in their statement.
They claimed further that “people at UATH referred us to NCDC office at Jabi. When we got there, we were informed that test are not done there but at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Gaduwa, Abuja, and we proceeded there.
“On getting to NRL, the security at the gate informed us that lots of people, apparently ignorant, came earlier in the day and were turned back because testing for individuals are not done there, rather samples are brought in by accredited state officials for test.”
A statement that was said to had emanated from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, in response to the complaints reads thus:
“Discoutenance! It’s mischief clothed in ignorance. Yes, NCDC expectedly has some challenges in terms of capacity to cope with the number of incoming calls. However, the lines are being expanded to accommodate more calls.
“People should not just go to NCDC and expect to be tested for COVID-19. Samples are usually taken from those that fit into case definition and coming from Covid-19 high burden countries. Such people are usually referred and the samples are taken from designated points.
“Besides, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing machines are limited to five centres presently in the country, even though efforts are being made to set up in various parts of the country. In addition to that, the reagents that are used to run the test are also limited. So, people need to understand all these limitations.”
The NCDC had earlier complained about many people calling the toll-free numbers for purposes not related to COVID-19, with some even prank calling. It insisted that COVID-19 tests are not done at its offices or isolation centres as claimed by the complaints, but at designated test centres across the country.
“People who should be worried the most and look for testing opportunities are people with travel history outside Nigeria who present with fever, cough or breathing difficulties within 14 days of arrival. Also, anyone who is a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is present with symptoms within 14 days should also be tested,” the NCDC stated.
On how to get tested for COVID-19, the NCDC asked genuine people in the above-mentioned category to call the NCDC toll-free number and stay at home and wait for further instructions. Shortly after, a state epidemiology team with support from the NCDC will arrange for sample collection and transportation to a designated laboratory. It strongly advised that such patients remain in self-isolation pending the outcome of theirs results.