• Demands NCDC’s urgent intervention

BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR – The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Cross River State Chapter, says by its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration is putting the lives of citizens at risk.

Raising an alarm over the use of RDT kits for testing COVID-19 in the state, AMLSN urged relevant health agencies to immediately jettison bureaucracy and activate a Testing Centre in Cross River.

It warned that by its continuous reliance on RDT kits, with their “high levels of false-positive and false-negative results”, the State government is exposing the people to avoidable health hazards

While also insisting that “somebody should be held accountable for putting the lives of Cross Riverians at risk”, the Association said; “The disparity between the number of samples collected and the actual test performed raises more questions than answers.”

According to a press statement jointly signed by the Branch Chairman and Secretary, Ndem Benedict and Denis Ekpo on Friday, the AMLSN cautioned the Cross River COVID-19 Task Force to refrain from risking the lives of citizens by deploying non-certified test kits to screen for the deadly virus

Drawing attention to the RDT kits’ faultiness, the body said; “The Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), in May 2020, made public its validation of COVID-19 RDT Kits in Nigeria. The MLSCN revealed that no single RDT Kit in the country was able to meet up with 95% level of sensitivity and specificity.

“It was on this strength, that the NCDC placed an embargo on the use of RDT Kits to test for coronavirus. The consequence of the use of RDT kits, with less than the required sensitivity and specificity, is their inability to pick true positive and true negative cases when in use.

“This scenario leads to high levels of false-positive and false-negative results. If this was used for screening at the point of entry as reported, then somebody should be held accountable for putting the lives of Cross Riverians at risk.”

Insisting that “the gold standard for testing for COVID-19 remains RT-PCR, for now”, the AMLSN further said; “We want to appeal to the COVID-19 State Task Force, and by extension, Cross River State Ministry of Health, to stop risking the lives of citizens, by screening for Coronavirus using non-validated and non-certified test kits.

“The State COVID-19 Task Force might have already imported the virus into the State; for according to its report, the Task Force claimed to have performed COVID-19 screening, using RDT Kits. These kits, as we know, come with both positive and negative controls!

“For standard practice, a patient must test negative before he is discharged. It is therefore worrisome to note that patients in the isolation centres, in Cross River State, are subjected to blind treatment in the 21st century.”

“We are calling on the NCDC to investigate the claims of the procedure of management in Cross River State Isolation Centres”, the Association said

The body, which expressed concern over increased laxity among the public in adhering to personal safety guidelines as advocated by the NCDC, noted that; “This may be due, largely, to the continuous bombarding of the public psyche with zero status of the State by various Agents of Government.

“We are calling on all residents of the State, to take responsibility for their health by ensuring that they comply with the NCDC guidelines of use of face mask, conscious physical and social distancing, general and personal hygiene, including regular washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers.

For the Association, it is important that the public remains alert and more conscious at this time given the risk of possible community transmission at the moment.

“Signs of community transmission of coronavirus is presently suspected to be at the community level across the country. Hospitals and Clinics in Calabar Metropolis are currently reporting high cases of patients with flu-like symptoms, with loss of taste/smell.

“This is causing heightened fears among the populace and worry among Care-givers. This further raises doubt on the ‘zero status’ of the State. This underscores the urgent need for testing”, the Lab Scientists said.

The AMLSN reiterated that testing remains the only empirical way of determining if these are cases of COVID-19, or other ailments altogether and urged the Cross River government to urgently do the needful.


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