The variant of the coronavirus currently causing anxiety in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world has been identified in Nigeria, an official has said.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, while speaking at its briefing on Monday, said scientists found the variant in Nigeria after a long time of sequencing.
“Over the last few weeks, the PTF has been closely following the rising number of infections reported daily in Nigeria and other jurisdictions.
“Similarly, our scientists have been sequencing the variants of the virus. There have been reports of cases with the B117 variant strain, first reported in the UK, found in Nigeria,” Mr Mustapha said.
The new variant detected in the UK in September and dubbed “lineage B.1.1.7” has triggered the current exponential spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom, leading to a travel ban on the UK by some countries and a stay at home order.
The U.K. has recorded over 3 million cases of COVID-19, with almost 100,000 deaths, data from Worldometers.com shows.
Over 45 countries have so far identified the UK variant, with experts warning that more countries could report sharp increases in cases in the coming weeks, according to a report on BBC.com.
The highly transmissible variant has also been found in at least 22 U.S. states, with almost 200 cases identified so far in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The BBC quoted top British health officials as saying there was no evidence the new variant was more deadly or would react differently to vaccines, but it was proving to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.
UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain “was out of control. We have got to get it under control.”
Mr Hancock also warned that more new variants could be identified in the nearest future.
Amidst high concerns of the rapid spread of the new variant, some countries are taking proactive measures to prevent importation of new cases of the virus.
The Nigerian government earlier announced new travel rules for passengers coming in from the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“Effective from Monday, December 28th, all passengers coming into the country from the UK and South Africa on direct flights, must use the Nigerian International Travel Portal to register, fill in the health questionnaire and must upload a negative COVID-19 PCR result with a validity of not more than five days and must pay for a COVID PCR test at day seven of arrival in country without which they will not be allowed to board the flights,” the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, had said.
He noted that a special register would be opened at the airports for passengers from these two countries specifically to track and ensure they present for COVID test on day seven.
Mr Aliyu said the country was concerned about the emergence of the new variant in the UK and the additional mutate that was described as coming from South Africa.
He noted that Nigeria’s system for travels in terms of ensuring the safety of citizens and preventing the importation of cases is one of the most strict.
“If you do not present a travel permit, the airlines are being directed not to board.
“So if you are coming into Nigeria from the UK and South Africa, it is in your best interest to familiarise yourself with the Nigerian International Travel Portal,” Mr Aliyu had said in December.
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