COVID-19: Nige­ria Moves Closer to Lo­cal Pro­duc­tion of Test­ing Kits

Na­tional Biotech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Agency driv­ing break­through; may roll out home­made reagents soon Cases now 7261, with 2007 dis­charged and 221 deaths Buhari bars govt of­fi­cials, re­li­gious lead­ers from Sal­lah homage, to ob­serve Eid prayers at home with f

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Ben­nett Oghifo in La­gos, Omololu Ogun­made in Abuja, with agency re­port

The Nige­ria Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol has suc­cess­fully val­i­dated the first phase of the Vi­ral Ri­bonu­cleic Acid Ex­trac­tion which should en­able lo­cal pro­duc­tion of cheap test­ing kits for Coro­n­avirus.

This is com­ing on the heels of the de­ci­sion of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari to bar top govern­ment of­fi­cials and re­li­gious lead­ers from pay­ing him homage dur­ing this year’s Eid cel­e­bra­tion ex­pected to take place to­mor­row, as part of ef­forts to con­tain COVID-19.

On the same day, 245 new Coro­n­avirus cases were recorded in Nige­ria, bring­ing the tally to 7261, with 2007 dis­charged and 221 deaths

The val­i­da­tion of the first phase of the Vi­ral Ri­bonu­cleic Acid ex­trac­tion took place last Thurs­day in the lab­o­ra­tory of the Na­tional Biotech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Agency (NABDA) in Abuja.

The Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, told the News Agency of Nige­ria af­ter the ex­er­cise that the suc­cess of the val­i­da­tion was im­por­tant not only to Nige­ria but Africa as a whole.

“The suc­cess of this

val­i­da­tion shall en­able us to mas­sively pro­duce test kits so that more peo­ple would be tested for COVID-19, not only in Nige­ria but in Africa. The im­me­di­ate aim is to pro­duce reagents for real-time Poly­merase Chain Re­ac­tion, and re­mem­ber, re­cently the lack of reagents stalled work in Kano and molec­u­lar di­ag­no­sis could no longer take place,” Akpa said.

He also re­called that the ab­sence of the same reagent equally stalled COVID-19 di­ag­no­sis in La­gos for many days.

“This project is, there­fore, de­signed to en­able not only Nige­ria but the whole of Africa to put the is­sue of short­age of reagents be­hind,” the DG said.

He dis­closed that the project was a Pan-African project whose part­ners in­clude Ethiopia, NCDC and the Univer­sity of Sh­effield, United King­dom, among oth­ers with fund­ing com­ing from the African De­vel­op­ment Bank.

A scientist at NABDA and Coun­try Co­or­di­na­tor, Open Fo­rum on Agri­cul­tural Biotech­nol­ogy, Dr. Rose Gi­dado, said the ex­er­cise was his­toric.

She said the val­i­dated RNAswift Test Kit for COVID-19 was de­vel­oped by Dr. Ali­son Nwokeoji, a Nige­rian scientist at the Univer­sity of Sh­effield, United

King­dom.

“If we set up more test­ing cen­tres, we can eas­ily do 50,000 with au­to­ma­tion,’’ the scientist said.

She added that the project was a part­ner­ship in­volv­ing NABDA, NCDC, Ethiopia, NVRI Vom, NIMR, and the Min­istries of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Health and Agri­cul­ture.

Buhari Bars Govt Of­fi­cials, Re­li­gious Lead­ers from Sal­lah Homage

Mean­while, as part of ef­forts to con­tain the spread of the Coro­n­avirus, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has said he would not re­ceive any homage dur­ing this year’s Eid cel­e­bra­tion ex­pected to take place to­mor­row.

The Pres­i­dent will also ob­serve this year's Eid prayers at home with his fam­ily, the pres­i­dency said in a state­ment, yes­ter­day, by his Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Malam Garba Shehu.

Tra­di­tion­ally dur­ing Eid cel­e­bra­tion, the pres­i­dent is paid homages by top govern­ment of­fi­cials, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, com­mu­nity heads, Mus­lim and Chris­tian re­li­gious lead­ers and chil­dren.

Shehu said these were the re­solves of the pres­i­dent as the month-long Ra­madan is fast is com­ing to an end and Eid-el-Fitr cel­e­bra­tion is around the cor­ner.

Ac­cord­ing to Shehu, the de­ci­sion was in ob­ser­vance of the lock­down mea­sures put in place in the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory, Abuja "to save lives and pro­tect peo­ple from all dan­gers.”

He also said the move was in line with the di­rec­tive of the Sul­tan of Sokoto and Pres­i­dent Gen­eral of the Jama’atu Nas­ril Is­lam (JNI), Al­haji Sa’ad Abubakar III sus­pend­ing Eid con­gre­ga­tional prayers across the coun­try as well as the pro­to­col against mass gath­er­ing is­sued by the Pres­i­den­tial Task Force on COVID-19.

Sul­tan Abubakar III also sus­pended all prayers, gath­er­ings in the out­skirts of towns and ci­ties amid the COVID-19 pan­demic, but that in states where govern­ment had reached de­ci­sion to mark the Eid-el-Fitri, Mus­lims should ob­serve so­cial dis­tanc­ing, wear face masks and use hand sani­tis­ers pro­vided for wor­ship­pers to check the spread of the COVID-19.

The Sul­tan also warned Mus­lim lead­ers against un­guarded ut­ter­ances for the over­all in­ter­est of the Nige­rian Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

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