The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has debunked the claims by the Cross River State Government that the agency plans to import positive cases of COVID-19 into the state in the guise of capacity building.
The Commissioner for Health of Cross River, Dr Betta Edu, on Friday, cried out that the state was being pressurized to record positive cases of COVID-19 since it is the only state in the Federation that is yet to be affected by the virus.
She also expressed fears that the planned training of medical personnel on COVID-19 sample testing procedures at the Nigeria Navy Reference Hospital in Calabar was a ploy by the Federal Government to smuggle in the virus into the state.
The NCDC, however, in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, said it does not plan to transport positive samples from one state to the other and its intention is being misinterpreted by the state.
It said, “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of recent statements regarding the country’s COVID-19 testing processes, by the Commissioners of Information and Health in Cross River State.
“Given our mandate to protect the health of all Nigerians, we are obliged to state the facts. The NCDC is leading the expansion of testing capacity for COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“The statements by the Cross River Commissioners of Information and Health are a misinterpretation of the Federal Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 testing strategy and efforts to protect the health of Nigerians from this disease.
“We would like to state unequivocally, that there is no plan to transport positive samples from one state to the other.
“One of our responsibilities at NCDC is to scale-up the capacity for COVID-19 diagnosis in Nigeria as we respond to this pandemic. Our ability to promptly detect cases and halt the spread of the virus in our communities is largely dependent on our ability to scale-up access to testing for Nigerians.”
The statement further said, “As part of the national strategy to scale up COVID-19 testing published in March 2020, we are leveraging GeneXpert equipment currently used for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. The use of GeneXpert will significantly scale-up testing for COVID-19 and improve turn-around time for results in the country.
“Nigeria is one of many countries around the world using the GeneXpert system to scale up testing capacity. This expansion process is in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), and supported by partners at US-CDC, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and others.
“There are 400 sites in Nigeria with GeneXpert equipment for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. However, we have prioritised the roll-out of GeneXpert in states where there is a high level of community transmission and states with limited or no laboratory capacity for the diagnosis of COVID-19 at the moment. These are Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Benue, and the FCT.
“Already, we have worked with NTBLCP and our partners to activate two GeneXpert laboratories in Kaduna and Nasarawa states. Eventually, we plan to roll out the GeneXpert testing sites for COVID-19 in every state in Nigeria.”