By Abiola Olawale
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has on Monday said that a new variant of COVID-19, B.1.2.5 has been detected in Nigeria and 15 other countries.
Chike Iheakweazu, the Director-General of NCDC disclosed this on Monday during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
The Director-General disclosed that recent samples taken across the country have detected that there is a new variant type B.1.2.5 in Nigeria. The variant has been similarly detected in fifteen other countries.
Iheakweazu, however noted that the new variant of COVID-19 has not been described as a variant of concern yet, so there is no need for panic.
In his words, “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. Last week, we sent another 100 samples to our colleagues at the ACEGID lab in Ede, and we did 30 sequences in our lab at NCDC. We will continue to scale the weekly number of samples sequenced as part of our surveillance. While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, handwashing, physical distancing and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of the virus,” he further stressed. The findings from the survey show that the estimated prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the population is 23 per cent in Lagos and Enugu States, 19 per cent in Nasarawa State and 9 per cent in Gombe State. We are still working on a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19 and the duration of immunity.”
Additionally, Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, disclosed also that Nigeria will soon receive an initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
Mustapha also appealed to Nigerians to exercise patience as the government is committed to ensuring the safety of every citizen by making vaccines available. He also went further to appeal to Nigerians not to procure uncertified vaccines from the black market.
In his words, “The PTF has been assured that Nigeria shall receive the initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines very soon and Nigerians will be adequately informed on developments. The multisectoral machinery will be deployed to enhance the logistics to the ‘last-mile administration’ processes that have been put in place. This will involve community mobilisation, training, transportation, storage, operations, among others. The real work involves every sub-national entities, the communities, the citizens and the civil societies. The issue of vaccines continues to dominate discussions and major policy and financial decisions by various countries of the world. As you are aware, NAFDAC in the course of the week granted emergency use authorisation for the use of AstraZeneca vaccines in Nigeria. This decision was reached after due process by the regulatory body. Despite this milestone approval, which will obviously be a game-changer, the PTF wishes to underscore the need to continue to take responsibility by observing all the non-pharmaceutical measures. Vaccines remain critical in the battle but we must remain well informed because of the intense transmission which is putting enormous pressure on the hospitals, intensive care units and health workers in our different communities. Let me state that decisions made by leaders and citizens will determine the level of our success in tackling the acute phase.
“The PTF wishes to reassure Nigerians that no stone will be left unturned in the effort to access safe and efficacious vaccines. We, therefore, plead for patience and vigilance. We also plead with Nigerians not to procure uncertified vaccines from the black market. Most countries have registered significant declines in cases but amongst the top five, the decline in Brazil is still minimal. The African region has shown a high decline and South Africa continues to record a sustained daily decline in cases. At the last briefing we informed you on the emerging issues on international travels involving the Emirates and KLM airlines. Discussions are still ongoing through the Foreign Affairs and Aviation ministries.”