The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday that a new strain of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, but further investigation is needed.
“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and the South African lineages,” John Nkengasong, director of the CDC, told reporters from Addis Ababa. “The one we are seeing in Nigeria, and this is based on very limited data yet, has the 501 mutation,” he said, referring to the variant termed 501.V2 and announced by South African health officials on December 18.
Britain had earlier reported a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that appears to be more contagious, and the news prompted countries to close their borders with the UK and suspend flights.
Nkengasong explained that Nigeria’s principal Covid-19 investigator had just released the genomic sequences of the new strain. More samples will be studied, Nkengasong said. “Give us some time… it’s still very early.”
The most populous country in Africa, with more than 200 million people, Nigeria has reported relatively few coronavirus cases – over 80,000. However, daily recorded cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time this month, and in the past week, Nigeria recorded a 52-percent increase in cases, Nkengasong said. There was also a 40-percent increase in South Africa.
The Nigeria CDC director general, Chikwe Ihekweazu, also tweeted on Thursday that in recent weeks, there has been a huge increase in the number of samples sent to the Nigerian CDC’s reference lab.
The African continent now has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3 percent of global cases. Confirmed infections in South Africa approach 1 million, and the new strain is now the predominant one there, Nkengasong said; adding, however, that this mutation is unlikely to have an effect on the deployment of vaccines.