Nigeria’s Ministerial Committee Clears The Air On COVID-19 Testing Procedure

By Onche Odeh

The Medical Sub-committee of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT)’s Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has cleared the air on the procedures for COVID-19 testing, stressing that no COVID-19 intervention centre in the FCT will ever send back anyone without testing them.

Chairman of the Sub-committee, Dr. Ejike Oji, who stated this in an interview with AfricaSTI said the FCT and the Federal Government are currently taking steps intended to put the country steps ahead of the virus and the pandemic, of which diagnosis is key.

Dr Oji was reacting to an incident at the Dome isolation centre in the Central Area of Abuja where some people who had sought voluntary testing after contacts with an infected person undergoing COVID-19 treatment said they were purportedly asked to go and self-isolate without being tested.

AfricaSTI had received reports that a family of four and four other persons who have had contacts at various times with a common friend who tested positive and currently receiving treatment visited the Dome Isolation to be tested but were told that a test was not necessary since they have just had contacts with the infected person less than five days before they presented themselves.

One of them simply identified as Sunday who spoke with AfricaSTI said, “Our friend had been taken to the Dome Centre for treatment after falling ill for some days from what was later diagnosed to be COVID-19. Despite not feeling any symptom, I decided with my cousin to take my family (wife and two kids) alongside others for testing. So about eight of us went there in the morning of Wednesday but were told by the official we met there that we need not take the test then since we had just had contact with the infected person a few days to the day.”

Continuing he said, “We saw reasons with when they said we may test negative now and develop symptoms days after testing, in which case we may argue that it is not COVID-19. So we were asked to just go and self-isolate for days and probably return for testing if we feel any of the symptoms.”

The information from the officials may be consistent with what has been documented about the virus. It has been found that it can take almost a week after exposure to COVID-19 for it to register a positive test result. This is as evidence have shown that testing may be less accurate within three days of exposure, suggesting that the best time to get tested is five to seven days after exposure and that tests are more accurate when patients are exhibiting symptoms.

COVID-19’s incubation period lasts up to 14 days. Testing too close to an exposure could result in samples that don’t contain enough of the virus’ genetic material to register as a positive.

True as this finding may be, the Chairman of the FCT’s Medical Sub-committee on COVID-19 said, “Nobody would ever ask anyone, especially one who has been exposed to an infected person who has come for testing to go and self-isolate without testing.”

Giving further details, he said, “We are trying to get hold of the situation through testing. What probably may have happened is that, since the looting of COVID-19 facilities, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) does daily supply of testing materials to the various centres every morning and return same to their stores say by 12 midday or afternoon. It is possible that the people have gone to the place at the time the NCDC officials have taken back the test materials.”

Oji informed that, sequel to the queries of AfricaSTI, calls were made and emissaries sent to the particular centre and it was ascertained that people were being tested as they come, without anyone being sent back to go an self-isolate.








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