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College seeks decentralisation of testing centres

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The Lagos State Government on Monday said two foreign nationals suspected to be infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) have tested negative.

As Nigeria continues its battle against coronavirus, the College of Nigerian Pathologists, CNP, has called for decentralisation of testing centres in the country.

This was as the body appealed to governments not only to fully support but also to motivate those in frontline through the provision of all necessary working materials and appropriate incentives.

The CNP, in a statement, Friday, through its President, Prof. Philip Olatunji noted the inadequacy of testing centres across the country and necessitated the need for “governments to substantially decentralize the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.”

“The CNP notes with concern the inadequacy of testing centres across the country and urges governments to substantially decentralize the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

“We do not see any reason why our tertiary health care centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests,” it said.

The body of Nigerian pathologists added: “The CNP wishes to remind all governments that those in the frontline must be fully supported and motivated through the provision of all necessary working materials and appropriate incentives.

“This is particularly important because, while educational institutions, markets, recreation areas, beaches, and religious places can close and communities can be locked down, hospitals must remain open and health care personnel must remain at work.”

The statement read in full:”It is March 2020 and the entire world is facing an unprecedented existential threat in the form of pandemic COVID-19. To date, over 400,000 people have been infected, leaving more than 18,000 of them dead.

“In addition, the economic fallout in economies across the globe both developed and developing has been enormous.

“Members of the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) have in their varied capacity been playing leadership roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19.

“We salute all our members and other health workers who are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic. We should not relent until it is brought under complete control.

“We commend the federal and state governments for the various ways they have intervened, even if sometimes a bit late.

“The CNP wishes to remind all governments that those in the frontline must be fully supported and motivated through the provision of all necessary working materials and appropriate incentives.

“This is particularly important because, while educational institutions, markets, recreation areas, beaches, and religious places can close and communities can be locked down, hospitals must remain open and health care personnel must remain at work.

“The CNP notes with concern the inadequacy of testing centres across the country and urges governments to substantially decentralize the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

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“We do not see any reason why our tertiary health care centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests.

“We urge the Federal and State governments to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in our tertiary diagnostic laboratories.

“We are aware of the advertisement of a few rapid serological test kits being touted for the diagnosis of COVID-19, and some are already showing interest.

In the first instance, many of these kits are antibody-based and may not be appropriate for an accurate diagnosis. Secondly, they are not validated, hence their sensitivity and specificity are unknown. While we caution against using these test kits, we recommend that an in-country evaluation could be done for some that are said to be antigen-based.

“We are of the view that anything that can positively contribute to the control of the pandemic should be embraced. While we recommend that at this critical moment, the diagnostic utility should employ the NCDC recommended Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), we call for a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach.

“The CNP is also concerned about possible abuse of Chloroquine arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection. Although some evidence is emerging about its efficacy, we caution against the inappropriate use of Chloroquine due to its damaging effect on the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart. Chloroquine should therefore only be used under the guidance of certified medical personnel in the care of people with COVID-19 infection.

“We condemn the hiking of the cost of Chloroquine, face masks, hand gloves, and sanitizer, which are essential for protection and prevention of the population, by unpatriotic vendors and dealers. We also caution against the spread of fake and unverified news. Members of the public should consult the WHO, CDC, NCDC, and other authoritative websites and sources for reliable information. Share only information you have personally verified; if you are in doubt do not share.

“It is gladdening to note that more than 95% of infected persons are stable; there is, therefore, no need to panic or get confused or over-react. Keep to all preventive and protective instructions – wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available; do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing, and stay at home when you feel sick.

“Coughing or sneezing should be done into a tissue or flexed elbow, and tissue should be properly disposed into the trash or waste bins. Surfaces and objects people frequently touch should be cleaned and disinfected. Wear a face mask if you have respiratory symptoms or are caring for someone with respiratory symptoms.

“Maintain a social distance of six feet (2 metres) and please notify the NCDC (080097000010) if you have travelled within the last 14 days to a country with community transmission of COVID-19. Avoid self-medication and notify appropriate health facilities if you observe any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, tiredness, sore throat and difficulty in breathing).

“Once again, we commend the efforts of members of the CNP and all health workers who are in the frontline in the containment and management of COVID-19. We shall continue to contribute our quota towards effective containment of the pandemic.

“All members of CNP are enjoined to play active roles in any NMA, MDCAN, NARD, and partner with the Federal and State governments in the fight against the scourge. They are also to be active in their various institutions. We shall conquer if we do not despair. This also shall come to pass like Ebola if all hands are on deck.”

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