Tuesday, 02 March, 2021

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New strain of COVID-19 in Nigeria possible – Minister


There is a possibility of a new strain of the deadly COVID-19 in the country as a result of mutation, probably from people who recently returned from other countries.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, made this known during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, on Thursday in Abuja.

He said: “As for the strain of COVID-19, yes, when Nigerians were coming back in batches from different countries – US, Saudi Arabia, Europe, China, the question did arise and some of them tested positive for COVID-19.

“The question did arise about whether the strain of COVID-19 they have is the same one that was known. The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) did a genome sequencing of the virus of the index case that came long ago; this is the first in Africa.

“It was confirmed to be the same strain as what was circulating in Italy and China. So, we raised the question whether there has been mutation since then in people coming from other areas.

“I don’t have any information on that yet, but it is suspected that it is possible. It is not yet updated but I’m sure that research centres in Yaba, Lagos and the one in Ede, are trying to do a sequencing that will show us whether all these viruses are the same or whether they have a different sequencing.

“With regards to Madagascar’s herb, we do not have any information yet. We have given them to our research centres and they are working on them. None of them has reported back yet. The time it will take for all these researches is not what we know, but I think after a period, I will reach out to them to find out if they can give me an interim report.”

Ehanire further disclosed that the doctors who were sacked in University of Jos Teaching Hospital, have been recalled, even as the Federal Government is seeking engaging ways to address other issues raised by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).

He said, “The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Ministry of Health and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have been engaging the National Association of Resident Doctors NARD to address issues raised by the young doctors.

“We also had conversation with Ministry of Finance Agencies and health-related associations, which addressed issues of welfare and allowances to frontline health workers.

“Complaints on availability of PPE’s have been addressed with the supply of materials to States, and separately to Federal Medical Centers.

“The disengaged resident doctors at the University of Jos Teaching hospital were recalled by the Board of Governors. I am confident that resident doctors will show understanding and reciprocate government’s efforts on the assurance that grievances shall be addressed.

“I would like to use this opportunity to inform stakeholders and the general public, that the much-awaited reforms to guidelines to operationalize the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is about ready and will be revealed after the presentation to stakeholders. However, I can say that errors have been addressed and the new document vastly improves on the earlier version.”

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, added: “Between last weekend and today we have carried out the biggest distribution of personal protective equipment (PPEs) ever since the response started.

“The last batch is going out today because I wanted to get it out before the public holiday tomorrow. Everything we are doing is to support the States.

“Many States are taking responsibility. Many of the labs in some State like Jigawa and Ekiti, are done by the state government to accelerate the efforts themselves. We will continue working hand-in-hand with all our State Governors to improve the response across the country.”

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