Mutated coronavirus in Nigeria since August – Health experts

A new report from scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemers University in Ede has revealed that the new strain of coronavirus had been discovered in Nigeria since August 3rd. 

The report, published on Monday said the new variant of the coronavirus “lineage B.1.1.7” was discovered in tests carried out in Osun State on August 3rd and October. And it may be responsible for the recent spike in recorded cases. 

“The B.1.1.7 lineage we found in Nigeria, predicting the one described in the UK has also been observed to rise rapidly in the UK over the past four weeks, indicating the plausible increased spread of the virus by specific non-synonymous mutations in the spike protein,” professor of molecular biology and genomics who is also the Director at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Christian Happi said. 

The B.1.1.7 mutated strain of COVID-19 virus was discovered in the UK in September. And from initial reports, this new strain is difficult to detect and is 70% more transmissible than the existing strain. Thus, health experts in the UK have linked the spike in cases of COVID-19 to the mutated strain and the government has imposed a Tier 4 lockdown in London and southeastern England.

 Belgium, France, Latvia and about 27 other countries have placed a restriction on flights from the UK. The federal government of Nigeria too on Monday said that it is considering the suspension of international flights from the UK.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed explained the possibility at a Special Forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday. 

Mr Mohammed who is a member of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said that the mutating strain will be the subject of the team’s meeting. 

“We are more concerned about the new strain of COVID-19 which is manifesting itself in the UK; that is the mutated strain.

“It is difficult to detect, it spreads faster and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection.

“This is a major concern to us as a country.

“While I do not want to pre-empt the PTF because we are meeting this afternoon, it is going to be top on the agenda of our discussions.

“I will not be surprised if that will be the recommendation of the committee which is meeting later today,’’ he said

At the end of the meeting, the PTF Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) said the committee is still assessing the situation and it will take its decision as soon as scientific basis are established. 

The SGF said, “?A lot of discussions is still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries.

The PTF, Aviation and health authorities including the WHO, are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as a cogent scientific basis are established.

The protection of Nigerians remains our primary concern and we reassure Nigerians of our resolve not to relent.”

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