Moses Emorinken, Abuja
The Kaduna State Government has hinted that should the state experience a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, it may be forced to completely lock down in order to curtail the spread.
It, however, expressed confidence in its capacity at the moment to test and treat cases, especially with the activation of a mobile van known as ‘Wellness on Wheel (WOW)’, which uses the revolutionary GeneXpert machine to test for both tuberculosis and COVID-19.
Speaking during the inauguration of the initiative, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, explained that it became necessary in order to further contain the spread of the disease, even as states across the country are easing restrictions.
He said: “We have decided that now that we are confident of our testing capability, we have enough test kits and our health system is becoming prepared to deal with the problem, we can open up, and we have opened up and monitoring the situation.
“We are still reviewing the result of the last weekend compliance level of places of worship, and based on the result of compliance as well as rate of infection, we may lock down again.
“I am saying this for everyone in Kaduna State to hear: if we get to a level that the infection rate will overwhelm our health system and our health workers, we may lock down again; we will go back to complete lock down.
“I am appealing to the people of Kaduna State to comply with the protocols and minimise going out.
“Our health system is stronger and we have much testing capacity. We are much confident in dealing with the problem and we have a good success rate in the treatment of people that are infected. But let us not take things for granted.
“This disease is a killer. I know it, I have experienced it, and I don’t want anyone in Kaduna State to experience it. If it becomes necessary to close down the borders and completely lock down, we will not hesitate to do so because, as I said, from the beginning, we will do whatever it takes to protect lives. We can apologise later for the inconvenience, but life comes first.”
El-Rufai applauded the KNCV TB Foundation and USAID for deploying the machine to the state.
The Kaduna State Government got the GeneXpert machine with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the KNCV TB Foundation, Nigeria.
He added: “The GeneXpert machine, which can be used to test a variety of diseases, was brought by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for TB. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, approval has been granted to also use it to test Coronavirus and it has been in our state for some time now.
“They have tested over 200 samples and many have tested positive.
“The vehicle is being used in communities where they have no contact traced and check whether there is COVID-19 infection, and the result has been a little scary: 15 per cent rate of infection in the communities where they have tested.
“These are high risks communities in the border states. This has been very helpful because for the first time, we are getting a sense of the geography and demography of the spread of the infection.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director of KNCV TB Foundation, Nigeria, Dr. Bethrand Odume, explained that the WoW truck is built with a GeneXpert machine and an X-ray.
He said: “The good thing is that you can equally use the GeneXpert to test for COVID-19, and since we are already working in tuberculosis (TB) programme, this is actually an intersection between COVID-19 and TB.
“We decided that since Kaduna is one of our states, we decided to support the state government. It may surprise you to know that this is the first GeneXpert in the country. After South Africa, Kaduna is the second in Africa.
“For us to increase the test for COVID-19, what we need is rapid diagnostic platform. These are platforms that one can maximise to improve access to COVID-19 testing, and we have it in the WoW truck.
“The good thing with WOW is that it is a mobile van. It can go to places and into the community and ensure contact tracing. For the past five days we have been in Kaduna, it has been a very good success.”