The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Monday said a new variant of COVID-19 had been detected in Nigeria and 15 other countries.
The new strain, B.1.2.5 which is different from the highly infectious B.1.1.7 has, however, not been described as a variant of concern.
Disclosing this at the press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, the NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, said 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.
He stated, “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.”
Iheakwazu stated that the NCDC was scaling up its sequencing capacity to have a better understanding of the burden of variants of concern in the country.
According to him, the risk of virus mutation was higher when there is high transmission of the virus.
The DG said the September and October 2020 household prevalence surveys carried out in Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa and Gombe States revealed the level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among the population.
Also the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, on Monday said Nigeria might take delivery of its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines between now and next week Monday.
Shuaib, who spoke at the weekly press briefing, declined to give specific date of delivery.
“The information we have is that we are likely to get the vaccines within one week. What that means is that we may get them between now and next Monday.
“But we will not give specific day of arrival until we get such information from the manufacturers,” Shuaib said.
The Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, cautioned Nigerians against patronising black market out of desperation to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We therefore plead for patience and vigilance. We also plead with Nigerians not to procure uncertified vaccines from the black market,” he said.
He also warned that decisions made by leaders and citizens will determine the level of success in tackling the acute phase.
He said that the PTF has been assured that Nigeria would receive the initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines very soon and Nigerians would be adequately informed on developments.
“The multi-sectoral 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 and operations, among others. The real work involves every sub-national entities, the communities, the citizens, and the civil societies”, Mustapha said.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that findings from supportive supervision of treatment centres showed that vulnerable and “at risk” persons were reluctant to accept hospital admission, especially if they had no severe symptoms.
“The bed occupancy at our isolation and treatment centres is about 36 per cent, so there is sufficient bed space to comfortably accommodate patients and we stand ready to redistribute from heavy burden to lower burden hospitals, if the need arises,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria has so far recorded 152,074 COVID-19 cases out of 1,489,103 tests and sadly lost 1,839 persons to the disease.
Ehanire also said that Nigeria is closely observing developments on the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea and working with West African Health Organisation to contain it in the outbreak country of Guinea and prevent the spread to other countries in the region.
He said, “Although Nigeria was classified as a moderate ebola risk country because of our distance from Guinea, health workers in our hospitals have also been put on alert to have a high index of suspicion and the population is hereby requested to report suspicious symptoms, including fever and bleeding in the community, among recent arrivals from the West African sub-region.”