Nigeria’s health authorities are intensifying efforts to contain the coronavirus, after the West African nation announced its first case last week. Part of Nigeria’s readiness includes upgrading testing labs, conducting screening at entry points and developing public awareness campaigns.
A National Reference Laboratory in the Gaduwa area of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is one of five set up across Nigeria by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to test for the coronavirus.
Lab manager Akinpelu Afolabi says Nigeria’s only confirmed case of the coronavirus was discovered here.
“So far, of all the 13 samples we’ve tested, it was that one that was positive,” he said. “We tested here and tested in Lagos. That was the only one that was detected here. They are managing one person in Lagos.”
Nigeria is one of only three African countries capable of testing the coronavirus in real time.
Afolabi says health authorities and officials of Nigeria’s disease control center have prepared many weeks ahead.
“You’ve seen the equipment we have. You’ve seen the people working,” he said. “We have what it takes, in terms of human resources. In terms of equipment, we have it.”
Nigerian authorities say it was an Italian man from Milan, a city badly hit by the coronavirus, who was the first confirmed case of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Health Organization in February named Nigeria among 12 countries in Africa at high risk of people contracting the virus.
Authorities have responded by activating emergency operations, including public health awareness campaigns and heightened surveillance at entry points, like the airport.
Nwando Mbah is a director at the National Center for Disease Control.
“At the point of entry, we have mounted a lot of activities, checking people, getting information from them, and then at the same time, comparing whatever information we are getting with what they are saying, because a lot of people tell lies,” Mbah said.
With more than 95,000 coronavirus cases around the world and 3,300 deaths, Nigerians are worried about the spreading virus, even though authorities are urging citizens to remain calm.