The Nigerian government announced in April its target of testing at least two million people within the next three months but the target elapsed before the health sector could cover not even 30% of that figure.
The Nigerian government has now developed the Sars-CoV-2 isothermal molecular assay (SIMA) test kit.
This is to improve its testing capacity for Covid-19 as Africa’s most popular nation has struggled with Covid-19 testing for a while now.
As at a month ago, Nigeria had only done over 422,000 Covid-19 sample tests in Nigeria. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (ncdc) confirmed a further 100 cases late on Sunday to bring the total cases to 5,505 people.
As at August 7, only 16 countries on the continent have conducted more than 100,000 tests. South Africa, Morocco and Ethiopia are the three countries that have conducted over half a million tests.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, home to around 200 million people, has only conducted around 1,500 tests per million people – about 1.5% capacity.
The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said the new test kit can produce results in less than 40 minutes.
Last Thursday, Health Minister, Olorunnimbe Mamora said this is faster than the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which is currently the main source of testing in the country. This method of testing takes several hours to produce results.
The Health Minister stated further that the Sars-CoV-2 isothermal molecular assay (SIMA) can be performed by low-skilled personnel with minimum training.
He said the kit is also 10 times cheaper than PCR and can be deployed for point-of-care detection and surveillance.
Mamora added that Nigeria is still struggling to ramp up its Covid-19 testing, mainly due to the lack of adequate equipment and reagents needed to carry out the PCR test.
Nigeria’s challenges, like that of many African countries, could not make any testing kit locally (until now).
Like most African countries, the kits were being imported even though it is clear that tests to diagnose viral infections are key to controlling the pandemic.