CLAIM: Collection of Samples For COVID-19 Testing Is Freely Available In Centres Spread Across All Lagos LGAs – Governor Sanwo-Olu

Olakunle Mohammed, Zainab Sanni

The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu released a press statement on December 18, 2020, which contained a set of COVID-19 guidelines.

This guideline was released in a bid to curtail the spread of the second wave of COVID-19.

The statement read in part: “As you are all aware, Lagos State is recording an increase in COVID-19 cases in all local governments. This is not peculiar to Lagos alone; the entire country is also seeing an uptick in the numbers of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus disease.”

“Of every 100 tests that we now perform, an average of 10 turns out to be positive. This is an increase from the 5 per hundred recorded in September, but lower than our peak in August which was between 20 and 30 per hundred. This suggests the existence of active community transmission, and represents the very likely possibility of the emergence of the second wave in Lagos State.”

“ALL persons who are showing symptoms and fit the case definition for the coronavirus disease will continue to be tested free of charge in the government testing facilities.”

“Collection of samples for testing remains freely available in our sample collection centres spread across all the Local Government Areas in the State,” the statement said.

POTENTIAL IMPACT OF THE CLAIM

Lagos state is the epicenter of the coronavirus disease in Nigeria and with a deadly second wave gaining momentum, the state cannot afford to share inaccurate information about its testing capabilities and ability to ensure that all suspected cases are tested.

Meanwhile, it is important that national and international health monitoring agencies like the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and World Health Organisation, WHO are not misinformed about the state’s preparedness to handle the pandemic. Wrong evaluation could increase COVID-19 fatalities in the state, which is an epicenter and commercial hub of the country.

VERIFICATION

On August 12, 2020, the Lagos State Ministry of Health informed Lagosians via a tweet thread on its verified Twitter handle that COVID-19 sample collection sites have been opened across the fifty-seven Local Government Areas (LGAs) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) within the state.

The ministry stated that these fifty-seven sample collection and testing centres are free to all residents in the state and advised anyone who: was in contact with a Coronavirus suspect; has tested positive to the virus to go; shows symptoms synonymous to the virus to get tested in these available centres.

But are these centres in the fifty-seven LGAs and LCDAs all functional and accessible to the masses? N-VA went on a fact-finding mission.

Are the fifty-seven sample collection and testing centres open and running?

The six-page list of centres released by the Lagos State Ministry of Health had the name, phone number, and email address of contact persons in each sample collection centre, N-VA put a phone call to these contact persons.

Our fact-checker posed as a concerned citizen that wanted to undergo a COVID-19 test, inquiring from these contact persons – who were doctors – if the sample collection was still ongoing and when to come for the testing. Detailed below is a tally of the responses given by these contact persons. Click this link for the cloud file.


As a follow-up to these calls, our fact-checker adopted the random sampling approach and visited eleven sample collection centres to pose as someone who wants to undergo a COVID-19 test. Detailed below is a summary of his encounter at the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and General Hospitals (GHs) visited.

Ajibulu PHC, Oshodi/Isolo LG

When our fact-checker got to the centre located in the Mafoluku area of the LG, and NCDC tent was mounted outside the PHC.

However, residents were directed to visit the Infectious Diseases Isolation Centre in Yaba as no NCDC staff was at the PHC to collect samples.

Isolo GH, Isolo LCDA

On getting to the GH, at the mention of the COVID-19 test to the security personnel, the fact-checker was asked to wait at the security post for an official of the hospital.

The official explained to the fact-checker that they do not collect samples for the COVID-19 test at the hospital, however, if the fact-checker wanted to conduct the test to facilitate his travel, as a student going back to school, or a worker asked to present a COVID-19 test result at work after December holiday, he could facilitate obtaining the result.

He was quoted saying: “The state government asked us to charge for COVID-19 conducted for travelers, students and workers, they will pay N50,400 for ‘appearance test’ and get result or certificate within two days. For non-appearance, it is 25,000 and you’ll get your result the same day.”

Isolo PHC, Isolo LCDA

When our fact-checker took a detour to the Isolo PHC, located beside the GH, an NCDC tent was mounted outside the PHC, but no official was at the centre.

The fact-checker make inquiries about conducting a COVID-19 from the nurse on duty at the PHC and was informed that sample collection and tests are conducted on Fridays between 9 am to 12 pm.

Odi olowo/Ojuwoye LCDA

The sample collection centre for this LCDA is located beside the Odiolowo/Ojuwoye LCDA secretariat building, when our fact-checker visited there, the centre was under lock and key, though there were tents, chairs, and hand-washing setup within the compound.

The fact-checker made inquiries on the whereabouts of the officials and sample collection schedule but the LCDA staff feigned ignorance and no knowledge of the situation with the locked centre.

Wright Memorial PHC, Somolu LG

The fact-checker made his way to the PHC located within the premises of a government primary school, but there was no sign of a sample collection or testing centre within the premises of the hospital

One of the nurses at the PHC informed the fact-checker that the centre has been shut down for a while, without going into further details on when it happened or where people can get tested within the LG.

Opebi PHC, Onigbongbo LCDA

When our fact-checker visited the PHC, there was no sign of a sample collection centre on the premises. The head nurse inquired why the fact-checker needed to conduct the test, when he informed him that it was for school purposes, she directed him to the Lagos State University Teach Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja.

LASUTH Ikeja

The fact-checker went to the teaching hospital in the direction of the nurse at the Opebi PHC. The security officer at the entrance when asked for direction to the COVID-19 testing centre, stated that there was no COVID-19 testing facility at the hospital.

However, our fact-checker proceeded into the hospital unit to inquire about sample collection from the administration unit, he was directed to LUTH.

Ojodu PHC, Ojodu LCDA

When our fact-checker visited the PHC, there was no sign of a sample collection centre in the health centre located inside Ojodu LCDA Secretariat.

Ifako Ijaiye GH, Ifako Ijaiye LG

The NSCDC official at the hospital stated that they no longer conduct the test or collect samples at the hospital and advised the fact-checker to visit LUTH or NIMR in Yaba when she was told that he (the fact-checker) needed to conduct the test for travel purposes.

Ojokoro PHC

The fact-checker was informed by the security personnel that they conduct tests at the centre but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, the fact-checker was there on a Tuesday at 11.00 am and there is no sign of the NCDC or COVID-19 Testing staff on the premises.

Lagos State Infectious Diseases Isolation Centre, Yaba

On getting to the centre, our fact-checker was directed to the Medical Laboratory Test unit (WARD B, Chest Clinic Area). He was directed thereafter directed to an open centre where other persons were waiting to be tested.

However, a site link was pasted on one of the doors for people to first register before the test will be conducted.

While our fact-checker was filling the form, a lab technician asked why he wanted to test for COVID-19 and he (the fact-checker) replied that he wanted to confirm his status, the technician asked him not to register but to consult a list of private hospitals pasted on the same door and go there for his COVID-19 test.

The fact-checker however hung around to observe interactions before exiting the area and overheard the lab technician inform an elderly woman waiting to be tested that ‘no-repeat tests’ are done at the centre. The elderly woman was also redirected to accredited private labs too.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

A quick survey of private laboratories in Lagos State revealed that testing at a private laboratory cost between N25,000-50,000 naira. This is unaffordable for the average Nigerian, many of whom live on the minimum wage of N30,000 monthly.

However, the fieldwork showed that the majority of the fifty-seven free testing centres set up across the state are non-functional or understaffed.

Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, the Public Affairs Director for the Lagos State Ministry of Health was contacted by our fact-checker with questions that will clarify the discrepancies observed during fieldwork.

Ogunbawo asked that the questions be forwarded via text. As of the time of filing this report, he is yet to respond to the text messages sent.

Meanwhile, the questions highlighted below remained unanswered at the end of our fact-finding mission on sampling collection centres in Lagos.

A number of COVID-19 sample collection centres are no longer functional, why?

Why are they having test days in some centres, contrary to what was reported that they are opened daily?

Our investigation showed that many of these centres battle with understaffing and lack of materials like reagents, considering the surge of cases in this second wave, what is being done about that?

CONCLUSION

The calls put through to contact persons in these fifty-seven centres revealed that sample collection was free but not all centres in the LGs and LCDAs are able to collect samples. A visit to some of these centres for physical verification also tells a grim story about the situation of testing for COVID-19 in Lagos State.

Juxtaposing these field reports on the sample collection analysis and weighing its impact on the fight against the second wave of Coronavirus shows that Governor Sanwo-Olu’s claim that “Collection of samples for testing are freely available in centres spread across all Local Government Areas in Lagos State,” as extracted from his statement is MISLEADING.

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