Moses Emorinken, Abuja
Nigeria now has 54 cases of the British (UK) variant of the COVID-19 virus, said on Monday the director general of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.
Speaking at a presidential working group (PTF) briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, Ihekweazu said: “As for the update on the concerned variants, at this point last week, we have so far learned that we have had 54 cases of the b117 variant – the worrying variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, which is now the dominant strain; almost 100 per cent of the circulating strain in the UK is made up of these variants.
“We found 54 of them between November and February – that is a significant number of those we sequenced. In total, we have sequenced about 400 since the onset of the outbreak. We continue to observe this strain and understand how much it circulates in Nigeria.
“There were reports of a new strain of b1525, which we started discovering in Nigeria and several other countries. It is important to note that this variant is not classified as a variant of concern. “Researchers and scientists are still working hard to understand whether this variant has any effect on tolerability, weight, immunity, vaccine diagnosis or therapy, but we have not yet found any,” he added.
DG NCDC added that 80 to 90 percent of residents in Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa and Gombe states are still susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, according to recent COVID-19 household seroprevalence surveys conducted by the NCDC and the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) .
He noted that the results of the survey also showed that higher infection rates were higher in urban areas compared to rural settlements, and that people aged 18 to 64 were more infected.
He therefore stated that the African Center for Genomics Excellence in Ede will be sequenced with 100,000 representative samples per sequencing, although it continues to improve the sequencing ability in the country.
“As for the recently completed survey on the prevalence of COVID-19 households, between September and October 2020, household seroprevalence for covid-19 was conducted in four countries in Nigeria – Lagos, Nasarawa, Gombe and Enugu.
“Following our epidemiological analysis, we now have results that we will include in shaping the response to public health. We tested representative samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies to be able to identify people who were infected, but the national surveillance system did not detect them, because if you are asymptomatic, there are few people who are likely to respond to testing.
“The findings of this study showed that the highest estimated prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in the population was 23 percent in Lagos and Enugu states, 19 percent in Nasarawa state and nine percent in Gombe state. This means that even every fifth person in the state of Lagos, Enugu and Nasarawa would ever be infected with SARS-CoV-2. In Gombe, the share is about 1 in 10.
“We are still working on a better understanding of SAR-COV-2 and the duration of immunity it offers. There is a possibility that the immunity will decline over time, and antibodies may not be detected in people infected earlier during the outbreak.