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COVID-19 forced Nigeria to grow labs from four to 140 – Buhari

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NIGERIA has grown its testing and detection laboratories for COVID-19 from four to over 140, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed on Friday.

Addressing delegates at the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the president said the country had trained over 40,000 health care workers on infection, prevention and control of the virus.

The ICIR could not immediately confirm the veracity of the president’s claim on the number of the testing labs.

This newspaper could not locate any information containing data on the laboratories from the three agencies of the Federal Government working on the containment of the virus. 

They are the Nigerian Centre for Disease Controlthe Federal Ministry of Health, and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

In July, The ICIR reported how experts claimed Nigeria was not ready for future pandemics because of the poor state of the nation’s health system.

A Professor of Virology Oyewale Tomori said over 60 years after the nation’s Independence, it  could only boast of two laboratories for detecting diseases like COVID-19.

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In his UN address, Buhari thanked the international community for responding concertedly to the pandemic and supporting one another. 

He said Nigeria’s efforts to contain the virus were rewarded with ‘moderate success.’

“At the outset, we recognised detection and contact tracing to be important tools in combating the virus. In this connection, from a mere four laboratories with testing and detection capacities, we ramped up the facilities to over 140 centres today. 

“Similarly, we built isolation centres and emergency hospitals wards in record time all over the country. We carry out genomic sequencing in designated laboratories across the country with a view to detecting variants in circulation. 

“In addition, over 40,000 health care workers have recently been trained on infection, prevention and control measures with the support of various partners. Through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, we have established 16 infectious disease treatment centres located within our Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres,” he said.

He said Nigeria received assistance from its partners and friends globally. 

While reiterating the need for vaccination to defeat the pandemic, the president appreciated COVAX – a global initiative that makes COVID-19 vaccines available to developing nations.

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Buhari specifically thanked the United States of America, Turkey, India, China, European Union for the vaccines they provided through COVAX. 

However, he called for a ‘fairer and more equitable’ distribution of vaccines to all countries to enable the world to contain the pandemic. 

“The rising wave of newer and more contagious strains makes this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of a prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

As of September 23, the country had 203,514 cases of the virus. About 191,942 of the cases had recovered, while 2,668 people had died from the disease.

Global confirmed cases of the virus as of that date was 230.62 million. About 4.729 million of the cases had died.

The ICIR reported in August how only one per cent of Nigerians had been fully vaccinated against the disease.

Through COVAX, the country got four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March.

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Nigeria also received additional 592,880 doses of AstraZeneca from the UK in August.

Even though the country has some vaccine candidates, it is yet to produce any vaccine against the disease, and it has been a victim of vaccine diplomacy.

Meanwhile, President Buhari reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to addressing challenges posed by climate change in his address at the UN meeting.

He said climate change manifested in different ways in Nigeria, triggering conflicts, food insecurity, drying up of lakes, loss of livelihood, and youth migration. 

“The trend is the same in many other countries that are threatened by forest fires, rising sea levels, drought and desertification. 

“In the circumstances, we intend to build a climate-resilient economy that effectively aligns with the SDGs and that has great potentials to unlocking the full opportunities in different sectors of the economy while protecting the resources for present and future generations. I know, in several ways, this is also a familiar story in many countries,” he said.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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