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Ekhomu advises FG to expand national testing capacity

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Security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, has called on the federal government to urgently increase the national testing capacity for the COVID-19 disease to enable early diagnosis of infected individuals and save lives.

He said the current five COVID-19 test laboratories in Lagos (two centres), Abuja, Irrua (Edo State) and Ede (Osun State) are grossly inadequate to handle the growing pandemic threat, advising government to purchase new PCR machines and reagents to enable expanded testing, adding that the pandemic response infrastructure should be bolstered to handle a rapid spread of COVID-19 cases.

Ekhomu, who is President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), charged the federal government to urgently stockpile ventilators, face masks, gowns, hand gloves and other PPEs in anticipation of the large number of expected cases, saying Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers should be directed to produce hand sanitisers.

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He called for a pandemic preparedness plan that would federalise private hospitals and convert schools, places of worship and event centres into field hospital units, while military hospitals should be incorporated into the plan to increase bed space, even as he urged government to expand our severely limited health care system.

Ekhomu, while commending the federal government’s 13-country travel ban and closure of international travel into Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports, said stronger preventive action, such as expanding the travel bans to African countries and closure of the land borders, would reduce the probability of the disease entering Nigeria at a higher rate.

He applauded the suspension of the national sports festival (Edo 2020) and the ban on foreign travels by government officials, as well as the role of religious leaders in enforcing the limited crowd sizes recommended for places of worship as steps in the right direction, insisting that the cultural issue of social distancing would limit community spread.

The security expert noted that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has done a good job in containment strategies, but has been reticent on testing and preparedness, warning government not treat COVID-19 with levity.

He criticised the composition of the task force for comprising mostly politicians, rather than physicians, epidemiologists, emergency planning/ response experts, etc.

He urged Nigerians to embark on social distancing by avoiding hugging, kissing, touching, handshakes, etc, noting that Nigeria’s high population density would result in high spread rate when the disease reaches Nigeria; hence “Prevention is better than cure.”

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