Fresh COVID-19 variant reportedly surfaces in Nigeria
Concerns were, yesterday, heightened that another coronavirus variant had reportedly been detected in the country following reports from the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC).
If confirmed, it would be the latest mutant strain to be identified after similar discoveries in the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa.
Head of ACDC, John Nkengasong, told reporters: “It’s a separate lineage from that of UK and South Africa.”
He said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) would analyse more samples.
ACEGID is located at Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State and it is a World Bank-funded research centre.
Led by Dr. Christian Happi and Dr. Pardis Sabeti, ACEGID, was one of the first responders to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Lagos. Their work allowed for a rapid and effective response by the Ministry of Health that prevented the spread of the disease in a city of over 20 million people.
In partnership with the Broad Institute and MASS Design Group, the research centre is leading an effort to further equip the entire African continent against future epidemics and improve response rate.
Nkengasong said the identification of the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, adding that South Africa’s alert last week was enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.
According to a research paper seen by the Associated Press, the variant in Nigeria was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and October 9 in Osun State.
Unlike the variant seen in the UK, the document noted: “We haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria. However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria versus the UK may imply a reduced power to detect such changes.”
The news comes as infections surge again on the African continent.
Reacting, a renowned virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, warned that the virus might spread out of proportion during the Christmas holidays “because most Nigerians have thrown caution to the winds.”
He continued: “They no longer wear face masks, nor observe other non-pharmacological interventions.”
“Please wear your facemask, observe physical distancing, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, the don pleaded.
The Executive Secretary, Enugu State Agency for the Control of AIDS (ENSACA), Dr. Chinedu Idoko, said Nigerians must reduce travels during this period to check the spread of the virus.
Besides, medical experts under the aegis of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria (AMS) in a statement issued by president of African Fertility Society (AFS), Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, also warned that infections might surge during the yuletide.
They, therefore, urged observance of extant COVID-19 safety guidelines by the citizens.
For the first time since confirming sub-Saharan Africa’s first case in February, Nigeria is in the spotlight as infections surge.
Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekeazu tweeted on Thursday: “Over recent weeks, we’ve had a huge increase in number of samples to NCDC reference lab. This has led to an unusual delay with testing, but we’re working around the clock.”
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