By Chuks Ekpeneru
An alarm has been raised over the emergence in Nigeria of a new variant of Covid-19.
The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that the new variant is separate from the new ones in South Africa and Britain leading to the swift return of international travel restrictions against Britain.
“It’s a separate lineage from the U.K. and South Africa,” Nkengasong stated.
But he added that further investigation was needed.
He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in will be analyzing more samples.
“Give us some time. … It’s still very early,” he said.
The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.
The Associated Press said the variant was found in two patient samples collected on Aug. 3 and on Oct. 9 in Nigeria’s Osun state, according to a working research paper.
Unlike the variant seen in the U.K., “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 vs the U.K. may imply a reduced power to detect such changes,” it was said.
“Over recent weeks, we’ve had a huge increase in number of samples to (Nigeria CDC) reference lab,” the CDC director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu tweeted on Thursday.
“This has led to an unusual delay with testing, but we’re working around the clock,” with many colleagues cutting short their holidays and returning to work.