Nigeria has recorded a significant breakthrough as the federal government yesterday announced the country’s indigenous development and validation of RNA Swift, a test kit for the identification of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for Covid-19.
The testing kits will help accelerate the capacity to test people and effectively manage the Coronavirus pandemic.
The RNA Swift testing kit is said to be capable of improving testing and bring the power of large scale and precise testing closer to Nigerians.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja, the minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said “The RNA Swift has amazing precision for the detection of SARS-COV-2 and will be commercially available at a price that places it ahead of competitors in terms of sensitivity and affordability”.
According to Onu, the RNA Swift was borne out of a need in the agricultural sector to test Nigerian farmers and labourers, even as he hinted that in the coming months, 5million farmers will be tested with the RNA Swift kits from the first 10 million kits to be produced.
He described the development of the testing kit as “Nigeria’s gift and contribution to help Africa and the world fight the Covid-19 pandemic”, adding that by encouraging Nigerian scientists and innovators, the country has the capacity to find solutions to global challenges.
Onu confirmed the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB) when he said, “I want to confirm to you that the RNASwift product team is in consultation with the African Development Bank for the funding of an African-wide testing programme for COVID-19 and the establishment for RNASwift production in Nigeria”.
The minister noted that the development of the test kit was as a result of careful planning and strategic investments of the Ministry’s departments and agencies.
He commended the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, as well as the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Sheffield University, scientists and the organised private sector (OPS) for their collaborative efforts in the development of the testing kits.
Earlier, the minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, said his ministry is working hard to ensure food security in the country by supporting the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
He said his ministry will continue to be in the forefront of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring that the newly developed testing kits is made available to test over 5 million farmers across the country.
He commended the efforts of the federal government in minimising the spread of the virus.
He further admonished Nigerians to look inwards, be more organised and focused so as to achieve greatness and more technological feats for the nation.
The acting director-general of NABDA, Prof Alex Ukpa, said the invention of the RNA Swift testing kit will improve testing and bring the power of large scale and precise testing closer to Nigerians.
He added that this approach will enable Nigeria and Africans at large get the needed attention to survive the pandemic.
Akpa commended two Nigerian companies, Graeme Blaque Advisory and Cellulant Nigeria Limited, for their support in the validation of the testing kit.
He further said the testing kits will be produced in Nigeria so as to meet the testing needs of the entire African continent.
“The RNA Swift kit will not only revolutionize Africa’s PCR-Based Covid-19 testing but will also lead to expanding it by at least 50 times while reducing cost, relative to the conventional kit, by over 500%,” he added.
400 Health Workers, FCT Health Sec, Nasarawa AG Test Positive
Meanwhile, no fewer than 400 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus.
National chairman of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Joy Josiah Biobelemoye, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja during the flag off ceremony for the distribution of Personal Protective Equipments PPEs to State councils of JOHESU, assured that despite the spike in infections, health workers would not relent in protecting the citizens.
He noted that the situation on ground called for drastic solutions, hence the decision of the union to take it upon itself to distribute PPEs to her members.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 over 400 members of JOHESU have been infected by coronavirus. We also need to support our own members who are working and sacrificing their lives for the generality of Nigerians,”Biobelemoye stated.
Among PPEs to be distributed across 38 state councils of the union are 50,000 pieces of face masks, 15,200 pieces of sanitizers, 2000 pieces of disinfectants and 1,200 pieces of hand wash.
Meanwhile, Aliyu Mohammed, director of Human Resources who represented Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Mashi, said the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown up in the health sector was becoming overwhelming, hence the federal government was appreciative of any donations made by public spirited Nigerians towards curbing the pandemic.
He noted that for some unusual reasons Nigeria has been able to brace up to the challenges better than other advanced countries with technological ingenuity.
He said, “The emergence of Covid-19 has changed the way we live our lives and the health system in general, such that even the developed countries have been overwhelmed, talk less of Nigeria.
“The virus has affected the economy drastically, hence government cannot meet all the challenges that has been thrown up; that is why we welcome such donations by the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria.
“We have many frontline health workers taking up these challenges on behalf of other Nigerians and the federal government is always appreciative of these efforts. So, we crave your understanding and more support to improve on our health care delivery in the country”.
Earlier, general secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said health workers deserve commendation for being the first set of people to raise awareness on COVID-19 and its preventive measures.
He said when many Nigerians saw health workers putting on facemask they became aware of the seriousness of the virus and the need to stay safe.
“Medical and Health Workers Union were the first set of people that produced face masks and other PPEs and started distributing to Nigerians”, he stated.
Also, acting secretary for Health and Human Services Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Dr Mohammed Kawu, has tested positive for COVID-19.
Kawu, while talking to journalists yesterday at the Asokoro District Hospital where he is currently receiving treatment, explained that his journey to the isolation center began 12 days earlier when he experienced feverish conditions.
This, he said, prompted him to take the COVID-19 test which turned out to be positive.
The acting secretary who is the equivalent to a state commissioner for Health said it was very important for Nigerians to appreciate that COVID-19 is real and can be fatal.
He stated: “I want every Nigerians, like I’ve always told them in the media, that this thing is real and anybody can be infected, especially those of us that are on the frontline.
“The disease can be fatal and it is important that everyone follows all the extant guidelines of hand washing or sanitizing, maintain social distancing wearing of facial covering and staying at home”.
On the challenges of being a frontline health worker, Dr Kawu said that the major drawback was infecting members of their families at home.
He said that his family members who are infected are also being managed within the FCT system.
Speaking on symptoms and status of his health, Kawu said. “I’m happy and I thank my creator that mine was moderate infection. I got some symptoms that were not very severe. I had to be on intravenous (IV) drugs for about 10 days. I’m stronger now. Probably they will discharge me anytime soon”.
Other COVID-19 patients also receiving treatment at the Asokoro Isolation and Treatment Center also called on the public to observe all extant guidelines to tame the spread of the disease.
Similarly, commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Nasarawa State, Dr Abdulkarim Kana, has tested positive for COVID-19.
This is coming a week after Dr Bulus Umaru Peter, the chairman of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Nasarawa State branch, tested positive for the virus.
The state commissioner for Health, Pharmacist Yahaya Ahmed, confirmed the incident to our correspondent in a telephone interview in Lafia, the state capital.
He said, “I can confirm that. However he is in self isolation at home and is in a stable and clear condition. We are taking care of him.”
The Attorney General is a member of the state task force on COVID-19 who was reported to be very cautious of the pandemic by observing its safety rules like daily wearing of facemask, washing of hands and using of hand sanitizer.
Nasarawa state has so far recorded 234 positive cases of COVID 19, while 113 recovered with 8 deaths.
NEC, PTF To Meet On Reopening Of Schools, Others
Meanwhile, the National Economic Council (NEC) said yesterday that it will hold further discussions with the presidential task force on COVID-19 (PTF) on reopening of the economy and schools.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta made this known while briefing State House correspondents after the virtual NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Okowa said the council took the report on the interface between NEC’s Adhoc Committee and the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on the ease of the lockdown and reopening of the economy.
He stated: “A lot has been done because we have had several meetings with the PTF and our inputs have been taken in the briefings to the president and the guidelines have been released.
“Since we started the meeting on May 28, lots of decisions have been taken and these decisions have already started to impact on the economy.
“Currently, both the formal and informal sectors of the economy have gradually been reopened apart from a few segments that still need to be discussed and we have also realised that the rural areas have also been opened to farming activities.
“And we have also in the course of our discussion agreed on the need to open the interstate borders to travels which also means travels by both road and train services is now possible and domestic flights are supposed to have resumed from yesterday July 8.’’
According to him, there are still other sectors of the economy that may not be open until further discussions are held.
WAHO Urges Nigeria, Others To Mitigate Impact Of Pandemic On Vulnerable
The West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) has encouraged the Nigerian government and others in region to continue to mitigate the impact of the CIVID 19 pandemic on vulnerable populations.
Director-general of WAHO, Professor Stanley Okolo, stated this yesterday during a press briefing to mark the Health Institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 33 years anniversary, in Abuja.
He said that mitigating the impact of the pandemic will help to safeguard the delivery of essential health services particularly to women, children, the elderly and marginalised populations, and to reward the selfless services of all those in the frontline of fighting this pandemic.
Okolo, however, said, “The scale and nature of the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the region’s health systems that have undermined response efforts, including weaknesses in infrastructure, human resources, diagnostic and therapeutic facilities, manufacturing capacity particularly of medicines and vaccines, and deficits in the level of community engagement required to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic therefore offers us both an insight into our shortcomings, but also an opportunity to resolve to do better. Both the leaders and the led have had to endure the same facilities and utilise the same health resources with the obvious challenges.
“We can therefore commit ourselves to break the stranglehold of poor health funding, neglect of human resources for health, and weak health systems through innovative involvement of the private sector, civil society organisations and universal community health insurance schemes.”
He therefore urged leaders to rebuild trust with their populations and engage community and religious leaders in strengthening public adherence to the social distancing and personal hygiene measures critical to defeating the current pandemic.
“It is within our power as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones and rapidly contain community transmission of the virus.
“Today, on WAHO Day, I am challenging every citizen of West Africa to make a pact with 10 of your friends or family to practise scrupulous personal hygiene and responsible social distancing, to never be out in public without a face mask, and to encourage each other to keep the pact during this pandemic. You will be amazed at how quickly this pandemic will go down in your community,” Okolo added.