Coronavirus: Nigeria, others risk running out of test kits, medical equipment

Dr Osagie Ehanire, Min of Health

NIGERIA and other third world countries are at the risk of running out of the required materials and equipment to test for Coronavirus as they are being outspent by the United States of America and European nations where the Coronavirus infection has been far more severe. Death toll in US and Europe continue to mount even as major cities across the developed world are under lockdown.  

The New York Times on Thursday reports that countries now scramble to outbid one another by paying triple the market price in order to secure medical supplies for their own people.

According to the report, poorer countries now stand the risk of losing out to wealthier nation in the emerging scramble for medical equipment particularly masks and testing materials.

“Scientists in Africa and Latin America have been told by manufacturers that orders for vital testing kits cannot be filled for months, because the supply chain is in upheaval and almost everything they produce is going to America or Europe. All countries report steep price increases, from testing kits to masks.

“The huge global demand for masks, alongside new distortions in the private market, has forced some developing countries to turn to UNICEF for help. Etleva Kadilli, who oversees supplies at the agency, said it was trying to buy 240 million masks to help 100 countries but so far had managed to source only around 28 million,” The New York Times reports.

The report quoted Dr. Catharina Boehme, the chief executive of Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, which collaborates with the World Health Organization in helping poorer countries gain access to medical tests as stating: “There is a war going on behind the scenes, and we’re most worried about poorer countries losing out.”

Dr. Boehme said a once-coherent supply chain has rapidly devolved into an arm-twisting exercise leading to leaders of “every country” personally calling manufacturing chief executives to demand first-in-line access to vital supplies with some governments even offering to send private jets.

Another official, Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, which represents producers and distributors of the lab tests used to detect coronavirus, was quoted to have said: “If it was just one country with an epidemic it would be fine, but all the major countries in the world are wanting the same thing at the same time.”

While Nigeria, like other underdeveloped countries have so far fewer cases of Covid-19, it is believed that this might not be a true reflection of the situation as a result of lack of facilities to undertake mass tests.

There is the fear that with the slow but steady rise in the number of infections, the pandemic might rise to a devastating level far above the capacity of health personnel and the squalid health infrastructures in these poor countries   

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, in a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report quoted in Premium Times, said that conducting mass testing for Coronavirus in Nigeria would not be feasible now given the volume of Nigeria’s population which he estimated to be over 200 million.

According to him, government was rather going to continue with its targeted testing for those who had been abroad or those who may have come in contact with any positive case. “We have 200 million citizens and mass testing is not something that I think is very feasible now, we are doing targeted testing.

“We are targeting those who are likely to have been affected, so we are looking at areas and persons who meet certain criteria that we set.

“Criteria of having been abroad, having been in contact with persons who have been abroad or having been in a cluster of places where we have a lot of positives.

“Even though it is going into secondary we are doing what is called smart testing in order to identify the cases that are giving us concern,” he said.


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