NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official said on Thursday, but added that more research is needed.
The discovery could raise the alarm in the pandemic after similar variants were announced in Britain and South Africa, leading to the rapid return of restrictions on international travel and other measures during a major holiday season.
“It is a separate lineage from the United Kingdom and South Africa,” Dr John Nkengasong, head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters. He said Nigeria’s CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases would analyze more samples.
“Give us some time … it’s still too early,” he said.
The identification of the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, said Nkengasong, but that and South Africa’s warning last week were sufficient to prompt an emergency meeting of Africa’s CDC this week.
The variant in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and October 9 in Osun state, according to a research article published by the Associated Press.
Unlike the variant seen in the UK, “we have not seen such a rapid increase in strain in Nigeria and we have no evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to the increase in virus transmission in Nigeria. However, the relative difference in A The scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs. the UK may imply a reduction in the power to detect such changes, “says the newspaper.
The news comes at a time when infections are increasing again in parts of the African continent.
The new variant of the virus in South Africa is now the predominant one there, said Nkengasong, as confirmed infections in the country approach 1 million. Although the variant is transmitted quickly and viral loads are higher, it is still unclear whether it leads to more serious illness, he said.
“We believe this mutation will have no effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent, he said of the South Africa variant.
South Africa’s health minister announced an “alarming rate of spread” in the country, with more than 14,000 new confirmed cases and more than 400 deaths recorded on Wednesday. It was the biggest increase in cases in a single day.
The country has more than 950,000 infections and COVID-19 is “relentless”, said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
“There is no sign at the moment that we are reaching a peak. There is still rapid exponential growth,” infectious disease specialist Richard Lessells told AP. He said that South Africa needs to double its virus control efforts “because many hospitals in many parts of the country are already overloaded.”
But there are few signs of the harsh restrictions that many African countries imposed at the start of the pandemic, which were seen as causing great suffering to economies and millions of informal workers.
The African continent now has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3% of global cases. Infections across the continent have increased by 10.9% in the past four weeks, said the director of the Africa CDC, including an increase of 52% in Nigeria and 40% in South Africa.
For the first time since the confirmation of the first virus case in Sub-Saharan Africa in February, Nigeria is in the spotlight with increasing infections.
“In the past few weeks, we have seen a huge increase in the number of samples for the CDC reference laboratory in Nigeria,” tweeted the CDC’s director general, Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Thursday. “This led to an unusual delay in testing, but we are working around the clock,” with many colleagues shortening their vacation and getting back to work.
Nigeria now has more than 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. He saw a record number of daily cases on December 17, with more than 1,100, and there has been a “rapid increase” in infections in the past two weeks, Nigeria’s CDC said this week, citing the increase in travel and “minimal compliance with COVID -19 security measures “as reasons.
The government has again imposed some virus restrictions, including meeting limits and recommended closure of bars, clubs and similar venues.