The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday allayed the fears of Nigerians that new variants of COVID-19 pose no risk of the transmission or severity of the disease.
The new strain of the coronavirus is not associated with the rising mortality in the country, the Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said while speaking at an online press briefing organised by the World Health Organisation.
Two new coronavirus variants, different from those seen in Europe and South Africa, were discovered by the NCDC last year. Nigeria is recorded an escalation in coronavirus cases by 52 per cent from November to December and deaths have also risen by as much as 30 per cent.
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“New strains are not news. It is only news when it is associated with mortality. The more the cases, the more the deaths there are,” Ihekweazu added.
He added, “Virus mutate all the time and we will always have new variants emerging. While we do have genomic surveillance in Nigeria, the relative difference is scale in Nigeria versus United Kingdom and South Africa.”
He said the agency was in the process of sequencing more samples that were collected in the recent cases of the virus in Nigeria.
The DG said NCDC would assess cases to determine if variants discovered in South Africa and UK, which had been shown to be associated with increase in transmission, were present in the country.
He said, “Our ongoing efforts in sequencing have two objectives. One is in identifying variants that are associated with any change in outcome, either in severity, transmission or mortality and secondly, to investigate the variants of interest already identified in the UK or South Africa to be associated with this changes in transmission.”
He added that Nigerian had started building the capacity in genomic sequencing so as to increase investigation on the virus.
According to him, the role of sequencing has grown so much in the last five to 10 years but it still requires significant amount of investment, knowledge and capability.
He added, “The importance of this will continue to grow over the next week few years. We will continue to work with our partners, including the WHO to build up genomic surveillance on our continent.”