Another new variant of coronavirus has emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s leading public health official has said.
John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed the new strain on Thursday – saying it is different to the ones found recently in the UK and South Africa.
But he added that it is still too early to tell what effects the new variant might possess, saying that scientists needed ‘more time’ to study it.
Coroanvirus variants emerge routinely as the virus spreads, but those in the UK and South Africa have been widely reported because scientists believe they are significantly more infectious than previous strains.
‘Give us some time. It’s still very early,’ Dr Nkengasong 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.
Dr Nkengasong said the Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases will analyse more samples.
The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the African continent.
The new variant in South Africa is the predominant one there, Mr Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach a million.
While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he added.
‘We believe this mutation will not have an effect’ on the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines to the continent, he said of the South Africa variant.
South Africa’s health minister late on Wednesday announced an ‘alarming rate of spread’, with more than 14,000 new cases confirmed in the past day, including more than 400 deaths.
The country has more than 950,000 infections and Covid-19 is ‘unrelenting,’ Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement.
The African continent has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3% of global cases. Infections across the continent have risen 10.9% over the past four weeks, Mr Nkengasong said, including a 52% increase in Nigeria and 40% in South Africa.
UK New Variant COVID-19, B117 Discovers in Nigeria
The Federal Government has said the new type of COVID-19, B117 variant strain that was first reported in the United Kingdom has been discovered in Nigeria.
Boss Mustapha, the Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, disclosed this on Monday.
He said four cases of COVID-19 B117 variant strain was recorded.
Mustapha said; “over the last few weeks, the PTF had been closely following the rising number of infections reported daily in Nigeria and in other jurisdictions.
“Similarly, our scientists have been sequencing the variants of the virus.
“There have been reports of cases with the B117 variant strain first reported in the UK, found in Nigeria. Three of these were in travelers out of Nigeria and one in a resident”.
Boss Mustapha puts Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases as at January 24, 2020 at 121,566 with total tests of 1,270,523.
He said active cases were 22,834, representing 19.4 percent. The total number of discharged patients were 97,228 while deaths stood at 1,504.
“Also, over seven days ending Jan. 23, the statistics showed that tests conducted were 58,974 while cases recorded were 11,179, with a positivity of 19.0 per cent.
“62 deaths were recorded, with case fatality ratio of 0.6 per cent; active cases stood at 23,568 at 19.4 per cent.
“All these numbers represent increases from the previous seven days and we are looking at taking further public health containment measures in local government areas that are considered high burden,” he explained.
COVID-19: FG To Build 38 Oxygen Plants As Demand For Medical Oxygen Rises
Following the approval of over 16 million dollars by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government says it will build 38 oxygen plants across the country.
This project is meant to address the surge in demand for oxygen as a result of the daily rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.
In the National Economic Council meeting held on Wednesday, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed said that the construction of a new oxygen plant was necessary due to the continuous increase in numbers of COVID-19 patients in need of oxygen.
In a statement, the FG said it had allotted an additional $671,000 for repairs of existing oxygen generation facilities in five hospitals.
According to the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi,_ “a large number of patients who are currently on admission in the isolation centers are largely dependent on oxygen. A patient with a critical case may use about six cylinders of oxygen in 24 hours”_ Abayomi explains.
In the commercial capital Lagos, the epicenter of Nigeria’s outbreak, demand for oxygen at one of its main hospitals had increased fivefold in recent weeks to 350 6-liter cylinders a day according to the state government.
COVID-19: Nigeria to Receive 100,000 Doses of Pfizer Vaccine By Early February
According to officials, Africa’s most populous country will receive 100,000 doses of COVID-19 by February 2021.
Health expertise at Pfizer affirmed that the COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored in a cold temperature and this might prove difficult when getting them to rural areas.
However, it was reported that Nigeria has found a way to beat the challenge through its ultra-cold chain equipment.
Dr. Faisal Shuaib, director-general of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) said “What we do have coming to the country is the Pfizer vaccines that require about -70 degrees Celsius,
“This is why we are actively making sure that we have those vaccines and also bearing in mind that additional vaccines might be brought from the Covax facility that will require these types of temperatures.”
According to Dr. Shuaib, the NPHDA has put in place three Ultra Cold Chain (UCC) equipment that will be used to bring in the vaccine.
He said, “Three of them have a total capacity of 2,100 liters. So, we have more than enough space for the 100,000 doses of the vaccine that will be brought in the first instance”.
“We will be focusing more on those vaccines that do not require these kinds of complicated cold chain mechanisms. So the Oxford-Astrazeneca types of vaccine that require +2 to +8 degrees Celsius are what we are going to be focusing on,” he added.
As of January 22nd, Nigeria reported 118,138 COVID-19 confirmed cases and 1,490 deaths since the outbreak of the virus.
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