The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says another new variant of the coronavirus seems to have emerged in Nigeria. John Nkengasong is, however, cautioning that more investigation is needed to confirm this.
The news comes after Britain and South Africa both reported new variants of the virus that appear to be more contagious, leading to new travel restrictions and turmoil in markets.
Nkengasong says there appears to be a separate lineage of the coronavirus in Nigeria compared to that in the UK and South Africa. He says that in the past week, Nigeria has reported a 52% increase in cases and South Africa has shown a 40% increase.
Nkengasong says millions of tests have been conducted across Africa.
“If we look at the testing number across the continent, we noticed that we conducted an accumulated number of tests of 25 million and this includes a 3% increase in the past week. We just received some test donations from the US government that will enable us to support and expand the testing footprints in areas like Lesotho and Eswatini. We are grateful to the US for this donation.”
“The one we are seeing in Nigeria, and this is based on very limited data yet, has the 501 mutation,” Nkengasong added, referring to the variant termed 501.V2 identified in South Africa and announced by public health officials there on 18 December.
Africa CDC to investigate new variants of coronavirus:
The Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Nigeria will study more samples, Nkengasong said. The country’s principal COVID-19 investigator has just released publicly the genomic sequences of the new variant, he added.
Nigeria’s CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Nkengasong’s remarks.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people, has seen fewer coronavirus cases than many others on the continent. Total cases crept past 80 000 on Wednesday. Daily recorded cases exceeded 1 000 for the first time in December.
Dr Kerrigan McCarthy on the spread of the new coronavirus variant:
– Additional reporting by Reuters.
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