Following the confirmation of five new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has released further guidelines on testing.

Nigeria currently has 7 confirmed cases in total, all of them with a history of travel from Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Another person that previously tested positive last week later tested negative and was discharged days later. No deaths have been recorded in the country.

Despite the government's assurances of having everything under control, many Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the seriousness of its containment efforts, especially in the area of testing for the virus.

Nigeria's Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has assured the country that containment of COVID-19 is under control  [Twitter/@OsagieEhanire]
Nigeria's Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has assured the country that containment of COVID-19 is under control [Twitter/@OsagieEhanire]

According to the agency's publicly available data (last updated on March 17, 2020), only 55 people have been tested for coronavirus in eight states in the country.

Who qualifies to be tested for coronavirus?

According to the NCDC, you can only qualify to be tested (for free) if you meet the agency's national case definition for COVID-19.

The national case definition is any person (including severely ill patients) presenting with fever, cough or difficulty in breathing AND who within 14 days before the onset of illness had any of the following exposures:

  1. History of travel to and more than 24 hours transit through any high-risk country with widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
  2. Close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  3. Exposure to a healthcare facility where COVID-19 case(s) have been reported.

14 high risk countries identified by the NCDC include China, Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, Iran, Japan, France, Germany, USA, UK, Switzerland, Netherland, Belgium, and Norway.

Nigeria has banned travellers from all the listed high risk countries, except Belgium, in an announcement made on Wednesday, March 18. All the countries have recorded at least 1000 cases within their borders.

Nigerian airport officials screening visitors coming into the country for Coronavirus. The nation has seven active cases, all of them from virus-hit countries in Europe and the United States of America [Twitter/@MansurIB007]
Nigerian airport officials screening visitors coming into the country for Coronavirus. The nation has seven active cases, all of them from virus-hit countries in Europe and the United States of America [Twitter/@MansurIB007]

Where Nigeria conducts COVID-19 tests

Nigeria has a total of five laboratories with the capacity to test for coronavirus to serve its population of around 200 million citizens.

The labs are:

  1. NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.
  2. Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo. 
  3. Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos. 
  4. African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease, Osun. 
  5. Nigeria Institure for Medical Research, Lagos.

Since coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December, over 200,000 people have been infected, and at least 8,000 killed around the world. More than 82,000 people have also recovered from the virus.