The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that a new variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Nigeria and 15 other countries.
The centre’s Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who announced the finding at Monday’s joint briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said Nigeria has now confirmed 54 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant in the country.
The B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant was first detected in the UK and has spread to over 80 countries in the world.
He said that researchers and scientists were still working hard to understand if this variant had any effect on the virus transmissibility, immunity, as well as diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
Iheakwazu said the cases were found between November 2020 and February 2021.
Ihekweazu said, “As we shared, a total of 54 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant strain, which is a variant of concern first described in the UK have been detected in Nigeria.
“There is a new variant, the B.1.2.5 which we have begun to detect in Nigeria and 15 other countries. It is important to note that this variant has not been described as a variant of concern yet.
“Researchers and scientists are still working hard to understand if this variant has any effect on the virus transmissibility, immunity, as well as diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
“This is because the variant has some similar mutations with the B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1 variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively.”
He said that the agency was scaling up its sequencing capacity to have a better understanding of the burden of variants of concern in the country.
He said that the risk of virus mutation was higher when there is high transmission of the virus.
He said, “While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, hand-washing, physical distancing and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of the virus.”