COVID-19: Nigerian Doctor Designs Contact-Free Testing Booth

Since the country reported its first index case on February 27th, 2020, Nigeria has only tested 7,153 people as of April 19, 2020. The figure is far below other African countries in terms of testing rates. South Africa, Ghana, and Egypt have conducted more than 50,000 tests each. Ghana reported its first index case on March 13th and has tested more than 60,000 people.

Nigeria needs to urgently ramp up testing. Governments are rising to the challenges, converting some hospitals and clinics to testing centres. For instance, the Lagos state government has also opened testing centres in each of the local governments. The problem is that the health workers who carry out the test have to wear protective gear, the cost of which may be as high as N50,000.

To protect medical workers and facilitate safer and cheaper testing, Dr. Ola Brown, the founder of the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group, has designed a walk-in booth for conducting COVID-19 tests. The innovation is modelled after testing booths in South Korea. The phone booth-style virus testing facilities allow medical staff to examine patients from behind the safety of a plastic or glass cover.

Dr. Ola Brown

In a series of tweets, Dr. Brown, said the innovation will help to ramp up testing, save cost on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and reduce risk to health workers.

How does it work?

Dr. Brown, who made our list of 15 Nigerians who will shape the next decade, explains that the walk-in testing booth will allow healthcare workers to take samples using a glove that protrudes through a glass barrier, hence without making any physical contact. The gloves are sprayed down from a distance by a hygienist after every sample is taken.

Her initiative will increase testing rates and also reduce the number of deaths for health workers during the pandemic. It is not clear how the innovative testing booth could be mass produced or how the Government could deploy them to testing centres. Private clinics could also find it useful in taking samples from patients that they think have COVID-19 related symptoms. The booth may also require (fast-track) regulatory approval to be deployed.

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