Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, is the epic centre of coronavirus in the sub-Saharan nation with over 200 million population. According to the country’s centre for disease control, more than half of the recorded cases in the country as of Tuesday evening are in Lagos State.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, weeks ago said community transfusion of COVID-19 is now 80% of the total confirmed cases in the state. “There is more local transmission going on as importation of cases is decreasing,” Abayomi said during a press briefing. On April 18, the state recorded three deaths, two of which were male without travel history.
In response to the skyrocketing rate of community transfusion, the state on Tuesday, announced that it opened twenty sampling centres across the Local Government Areas in the state to rack up numbers of people tested for the disease.
On Monday, BBC visited the centres at Ikeja, Oshodi-Isolo and Agege and their preparedness level varies. While the centre at Agege has begun sampling, the Ikeja centre was only just getting set up and there was no sight of a COVID-19 sampling centre at Oshidi-Isolo.
“We heard the information too but we are yet to see anyone,” said one of the medical officers at 1 Ajibulu, Mafoluku Oshodi, the supposed location of the sampling centre at Oshodi-Isolo local government area.
The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) at the Ikeja makeshift facility told BBC that sampling will commence fully tomorrow. “We trained the officials that will be working today,” the MOH who declined to give her name told BBC.
Indeed, there were activities ongoing in preparation for the next day’s business. Before the MOH addressed the BBC correspondent at the centre, the fair lady was coordinating with another officer on the dispatch rider.
“They are asking about dispatch rider,” She said to the officer as she handed her the phone.
The dispatch riders are the lifeline of the centres. They are to pick up the collected samples from the local government and take to the testing facilities in the state.
“They have been trained on how to pick up with the necessary identifiers on them so they don’t get mixed up or contaminated,” Dr Akintoba Akintayo, the MOH at Agege explained to BBC.
The sampling centre at Agege seems the readiest for the tasks albeit with low capacity. As of Monday, the centre has only collected nine samples. Akintayo hopes that the number will increase as the medical supervisors settle into their new role.
“As they keep doing this, they will get better and faster,” he said. The centre opens at 8am but closes only when the laboratorian are tired. “The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a heat chamber and it is very, very roasting,” Akintayo explained why the closing time is “labortorian dependant”.
In the premises of the Primary Health Centre where the makeshift medical centre was set up, barricade tape was used to separate the COVID-19 sample collection area. It was to ensure that other patients do not get into the high-risk zone with possible infectious droplets.
COVID-19 is transmissible through droplets released from an infected person. Experts say the virus can stay active on surfaces the droplets land for days. There are security officers at the entrance to the premises to sort out the Cobid-19 potential patients from the other patients visiting the hospital for other healthcare services.
“The route of those here for regular medical activities is different from those here for sample taking an appointment,” Akintayo said as he walks BBC’s correspondent through the carved path created with the red and white tape. The paths are manned by security officers to enforce compliance.
“Security men stay along the barricade to ensure people follow the right route,” he said. Once visitors for the COVID-19 test have been identified, they are given a face mask immediately, according to Akintayo.
The sampling centre is divided into sections for easy coordination and to avoid crowding. The first point is where the appointment forms of the patents are pulled out and a unique code generated to protect their identity. The case investigation form is filled at this point and stored both digitally and manually.
The sampling centres do not attend to walk-in patients they must have booked a prior appointment via a designated call centre.
With the unique code have been generated, the patients are then directed to another section where they take turns for their samples to be taken. The while plastic chairs are adequate space for social distancing.
Akintayo said “not more than five or six persons” are allowed into the sampling waiting area at a time. The patients are then called in one after the other for their samples to be taken.
“After the sample is taken, the patient goes out through the back of the building. They do not come to this end again. They are usually told not to remove their masks until they get home. They are also educated on how to properly dispose of the mask.”
Back inside the centre, the collected samples are transferred to either of the four testing centres in the state. The patients get their result in three working days.
Testing time varies; it ranges from days to few hours. In Australia, results sometimes take up to four days before the patients know their status. However, in the UK, there is a target to get the result out within 24 hours to relieve the patients of apprehension or enable them to commence treatment immediately.
“The waste generated in the centre are management by environment officers. The environment are decontaminated daily before and after the procedure.”