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Global shortage of capacity threatens efforts to contain COVID-19

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As the number Nigerians battling the COVID-19 rises above 97, there are indications that global shortage of testing capacities, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators, may threaten the chances of patients to survive and nations to stop the spread of the virus.

The situation has created panic in Nigeria as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Director General and Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, yesterday said most Nigerians were thronging the centre asking to get tested.

He, however, said the country does not have capacity to test everybody currently, but was only screening those with symptoms and cautioned against use of rapid test kits, saying they have not been validated.

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Contrary to reports, Ihekweazu, explained that for now, the country has enough face masks and PPEs, but no ventilators, adding that although the number of cases were rising, most infections were mild and only few patients were having severe symptoms.

For some patients who will become critically ill after contracting COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months, a ventilator could be the difference between life and death.

However, The Guardian’s investigation showed that the current setup does not allow for testing of enough people because it is based on molecular technique, which is difficult to scale up.

Critics argued that this explained why only few people have been screened and that the country needed reliable rapid test kits to deployed immediately to help decentralise screening in the country. They say testing centres are needed in every state of the federation.

Until now, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and several studies have recommended several measures that could be put in place everywhere: the preparation and expansion of health services; widespread testing and tracing; social distancing and personal quarantine measures and clear messaging.

However, the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Saturday cautioned that the chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment now constitutes one of the most urgent threats to the collective ability to save lives.

“WHO has shipped almost two million individual items of protective gears to 74 countries that needed them most, and we’re preparing to send a similar amount to 60 other countries.

“But much more is needed. This problem can only be solved with international cooperation and international solidarity. When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk. Health workers in low-and middle-income countries deserve the same protection as those in the wealthiest countries.

“To support our call on all countries to conduct aggressive case-finding and testing, we’re also working urgently to massively increase the production and capacity for testing around the world,” he stated.

Latest figures from the NCDC published yesterday showed that on March 28, 2020, 16 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Nigeria and till date, 97 cases have been confirmed, three cases discharged and one death recorded so far from COVID-19 in Nigeria.

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