As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to escalate around the world and more suspected cases being recorded in Nigeria, there are no testing centres in four out of the six geopolitical zones in the country.
It was gathered that there are no testing facilities in the South East, North West, North East and North Central zones of the country, heightening fears among millions of people in the 19 states in the regions of what would likely happen when the urgent need to be tested arise.
In all, there are five laboratories in the country that have the requisite facilities to test for the virus and they are located in the South West and South South.
It was gathered that there are two federal laboratories in Lagos and one in Osun State.
Another laboratory is in Edo State (South South), while the only one in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) takes care of the whole northern region and to some extent the South East.
The laboratories identified for the test include the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja; the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State; the Virology Laboratory in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR); and the Lagos African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease in Osun State. Some sources said most of the centres were being overwhelmed on daily basis by panicking Nigerians who wanted to check their status even if they did not show any sign of the disease.
Daily Trust reports that the only state-owned laboratory testing centre in Lagos State is located at the Mainland Hospital where the infectious disease hospital (IDH) is located, with officials saying many people have been tested for the Covid-19 at no cost.
"I am afraid there would be a disaster in the event we have a single confirmed incident in the North because it means people would have to travel hundreds of kilometres to be tested," said Nafiu Yusuf, a resident of Dutsin-Ma in Katsina State.
"It is nearly 850 kilometres from Maiduguri to Abuja and nearly 650 kilometres from Sokoto to Abuja. You can imagine what will happen when you have many emergencies," he said.
A medical doctor at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) said governors in the region should not wait for the federal government to do everything. "They should go beyond banning public gatherings or closing schools. They should be proactive in providing world class facilities to confront emergency situation... Of course, we pray that the virus should not come close," he said.
Few days ago, the Senate expressed displeasure with the number of testing centres in the country, saying there are no testing centres available in some geopolitical zones.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan therefore enjoined the federal government to establish more testing centres particularly in zones that have none. Lawan was responding to a motion moved by Ibrahim Oloriegbe who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.
The Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Iheakwazu, did not respond to queries on the effectiveness of the centres and whether there are plans to increase the number of centres as at press time.