The Aliko Dangote Foundation, a philanthropic endeavour of Aliko Dangote, has contracted 54Gene, a molecular diagnostics company specialised in research and diagnostics, to immediately set up a 400 test/day capacity laboratory in Kano State.
54Gene is accredited by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and has already set up labs in Lagos and in Ogun States.
The lab, which was inaugurated on Sunday in Kano, will start with a testing capacity of 400 tests a day, increasing to 1,000 tests a day by May 10.
The lab was set up at Muhammadu Buhari Hospital in Kano, where an isolation center is currently operational.
The President/Chief Executive of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said the foundation is directly supporting the Nigerian Government’s COVID-19 containment efforts in Kano State.
According to Dangote, this new investment in support of increasing nationwide testing, comes in addition to ADF’s support through the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19.
He explained: “CACOVID is already setting up a 310-bed isolation centre at Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
“We are extending that capacity by another 150 beds at the Abubakar Imam Urology Centre in Kano, which is being converted into an isolation centre now.
“These two centres will be operational pending the final validation by the Infection Prevention and Control Team, which we expect will be completed in the coming days.”
Dangote pledged the Foundation’s commitment to reducing the number of lives lost to diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola and other deadly viruses in the State.
He said the foundation would not relent in using its investments in health, education and economic empowerment to help lift people out of sickness and poverty.
Speaking on the efforts of the Foundation to assist the Federal Government in curtailing the spread of COVID-19, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ADF, Zouera Youssoufou, added that ADF is also supporting the Rapid Response Teams in their work to identify suspected COVID-19 cases across the healthcare centres in Kano.
“ADF will immediately hand over to the Kano RRT 10 new ambulances (four that are immediately available and six over the next week), two vehicles and PPEs to support the transportation of patients from different parts of the state,” Youssoufou said.
She said the Foundation is also supporting the Kano State COVID-19 contact call cenre that responds to citizen queries and concerns around COVID-19 and refers people to the proper place for follow up by providing extra phone lines and ICT infrastructure as well as training for the call centre staff.
On training, she disclosed: “We are supporting training and incentives for COVID-19 health workers.
“We will provide hazard incentives and protections for the healthcare and lab workers who are working on the COVID-19 response.
“We are also providing training to them, initially online and via distance learning, and will complement his with in-person training in Kano under strict IPC protocols developed in conjunction with the NCDC.
She said: “ADF will continue to provide PPEs to the Kano State COVID-19 Task Force, which will then be distributed to the hospitals as appropriate.
“Items already supplied include coveralls, gloves, masks, respirators, goggles, boots and sanitisers.
“We are expanding the CACOVID communications strategy in Kano by adding more communications and advocacy around COVID-19 prevention across radio, TV and traditional and community leaders.”
Commending ADF, the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, stated: “There’s no doubt we started on a shaky foundation, with assistance of ADF, we can see that a friend in deed is a friend in need.
“We are very grateful for the mobile testing Centre, which will launch with 400 samples per day, and after a week, increase to 1,000 tests per day.
“It is now left for us to intensify efforts to collect samples.
“We will ensure that all that 44 Local Government Council have collection centres.
“Here in the metropolitan local government, we will have hundreds of collection centres because this is where the majority of the population is.”
The governor added that the state has intensified efforts to create awareness about the reality of coronavirus.
He commended the Dangote Foundation for always occupying the forefront of helping in critical times like this.
Speaking on the collaboration, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of 54gene, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, said the 40ft structure built with container technology provides a unique plug-and-play solution.
Ene-Obong explained that the mobile laboratory is also fully kitted with vital instruments, including an autoclave, bio-safety cabinet, centrifuge, heating blocks, vortexes, pipettes, and PCR machines to support COVID-19 testing.
He stated: “Our mobile lab is fully equipped with all the vital instruments required for COVID-19 testing, and allows us to quickly offer our services to multiple states due to the ease of transport.
“Its unique plug and play feature eliminates the logistics of shipping samples to another location for the processing which reduces turnaround times for test results and allows clinicians to manage and treat patients accurately, sooner rather than later.”
Ene-Obong said the company has also helped build capacity by equipping molecular scientists with the necessary skill set required to handle the instruments in the mobile lab as they would in regular molecular testing laboratories.