Osinbajo visits NCDC

Osinbajo visits NCDC

  • Commends health workers for their efforts in fight against COVID-19

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo yesterday paid a scheduled visit to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) commending the efforts of NCDC staff, State Public Health Teams and other public health workers who have been working tirelessly in response to the pandemic for about a year.

The Vice President who was received at the apex laboratory by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire,  Minister of State for Health Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora,  the Director General of NCDC.  Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC directors, staff and representatives of partner agencies  described the efforts of the agency’s staff, as he was conducted round the facilities, as “heroic.”

Welcoming the Vice President, the Minister of Health  also commended NCDC’s critical role in the prevention, detection and response to disease outbreaks.

“We are very proud of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which is our youngest agency at the Federal Ministry of Health. In the last four years, the agency has grown significantly in its mandate and delivery.

“The achievements of NCDC in Nigeria’s public health response have been as a result of the resilience, dedication and commitment of its leadership and staff. Thank you, Your Excellency, for honouring their hardwork with your visit today,” he said.

The Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu in his remarks also expressed gratitudes to the Vice President for his visit. He shared the agency’s journey with establishing the NRL, including the COVID-19 response and challenges.

“We remain grateful to the Executive arm of the Government for the strong political commitment to strengthen health security in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for stable, substantial and sustainable funding for health security.

“We were able to activate the NRL and three other laboratories for COVID-19 diagnosis in January 2020, because we had been preparing for the next pandemic for four years. Nigeria must invest in health security for us to be better prepared for the next pandemic.”

Perof. Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (centre) flanked by (L-R) DG, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu; Minister of State for Health Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora and Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire during the visit.

interacted with the laboratory staff while on tour of the facility and observed operations at the molecular laboratory, the HIV mega-laboratory, its biorepository for the storage of samples and other areas of the facility. He reiterated the commitment of the President Muhammed Buhari administration to prioritise and strengthen health security.

Since the confirmation of Nigeria’s first COVID-19 case in February 2020, NCDC, supported by its partners, has been leading Nigeria’s committed public health response to the pandemic. This includes establishing and scaling up capacity for COVID-19 testing, surveillance activities, risk communications, as well as providing technical support to states and several other activities.

The NCDC National Reference Laboratory (NRL) was initially operationalised in May 2017. Prior to this, Nigeria did not have a Public Health Laboratory for epidemic-prone diseases. Since its establishment, the NRL has developed molecular capacity for the diagnosis of many epidemic prone diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever, monkeypox, cholera as well as highly pathogenic viruses such as Ebola virus.

In response to the emergence of SARS CoV2 the virus that causes COVID 19, NCDC rapidly developed its capacity to make the diagnosis and has also led on the activation of 112 public and private laboratories across Nigeria. Through these efforts, every state in Nigeria now has at least one molecular laboratory with the capacity to test for COVID-19. The pandemic has created an opportunity to establish molecular laboratories and testing capacity that can be used for other epidemic-prone diseases.

Till date, Nigeria has conducted over one million COVID-19 tests with over 70% of these carried out in public health laboratories. A large proportion of these tests have been conducted at the NRL, where NCDC staff have maintained a 24/7 shift since the beginning of the pandemic.

The NRL was selected by WHO and Africa CDC in 2020, as one of eight sequencing laboratories in the African region. In this position, the laboratory serves as a regional reference sequencing laboratory for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.

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