A new coronavirus variant has apparently been detected in Nigeria, according to officials.
If confirmed, it would be the latest mutant strain to be identified after similar discoveries in the UK and South Africa.
“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters.
Nkengasong said the Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will analyse more samples.
“Give us some time. It’s still very early,” he said.
The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.
The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the African continent.
The new variant in South Africa is the predominant one there, Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach a million.
While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he added.
“We believe this mutation will not have an effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent, he said of the South Africa variant.
South Africa’s health minister late on Wednesday announced an “alarming rate of spread”, with more than 14,000 new cases confirmed in the past day, including more than 400 deaths.
The country has more than 950,000 infections and COVID-19 is “unrelenting,” Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement.
The African continent has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3 per cent of global cases.
Infections across the continent have risen 10.9 per cent over the past four weeks, Nkengasong said, including a 52 per cent increase in Nigeria and 40 per cent in South Africa.
Credit: Evening Standard.