Indian COVID-19 strain surfaces in Nigeria, diseases centre alerts NCDC


Our Reporters

12 May 2021

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• Strain detected in Osun, Edo same with India’s, different in characteristics – ACEGID prof

• There should be announcement that vicious strain already in Nigeria, counsels Tomori

The COVID-19 strain, which is currently ravaging India,  has been found in Nigeria, The PUNCH has learnt.

The strain was detected by the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in the Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State nearly three weeks ago and has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Recall that the Federal Government on Monday restricted gatherings at worship centres and banned nightclubs following reports that the devastating COVID-19 strain in South Africa had spread to 23 other countries.

The PUNCH was informed on Tuesday that the detection of the Indian strain in Nigeria contributed to the fresh regulations issued by the Federal Government.

The detection had been listed on GISAID, a global science initiative that provided open access to genomic data of influenza viruses.

A notification dated April 25, 2021, sent by Professor  Christian Hapi of the ACEGID to the NCDC read in part, “We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.”

However, The PUNCH learnt that subsequent observations showed that so far, the strain had not shown the same kind of viciousness displayed in India where 400,000 persons were infected daily and 157 died per hour.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, Hapi said the information was sent to the NCDC two weeks ago.

Strain detected in Nigeria same with India’s, but different in characteristics – Professor

Hapi, however, clarified that strain in India has two more mutations than the one identified in Nigeria which makes the one in India more aggressive.

“What we have is the B1.617 from India. That is the variant they had but that variant has now evolved beyond the mutation that we identified.

“The one India evolved by two mutations. It is the same strain with India but their own now has a couple of mutations. So, it is the same as what we detected but also different in characteristics.”

Virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor  Oyewale Tomori, told one of our correspondents that he was also aware of the detection of the Indian strain.

Tomori said it was important for the government to announce the detection of the Indian strain.

He further said there was a need to increase testing, adding that many states were no longer conducting  test for COVID-19.

“The Indian strain is not as fierce in Nigeria yet but we are not doing enough testing,” Tomori said.

When asked what the government should do next, Tomori said he was satisfied with the decision of the Federal Government to step up enforcement.

“They have already done what needs to be done by issuing travel guidelines on passengers from India, Brazil and Turkey plus the curfew and others announced yesterday (Monday). Perhaps, there should be an announcement that the Indian strain is already in Nigeria,” Tomori added.

FG being proactive with new guidelines, expert says

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Committee on Infectious Disease for the Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State branch, Dr Japheth Olugbogi, on Tuesday said the new guidelines released by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 to further curtail the spread of the virus in the country showed that the Federal Government was being proactive.

Olugbogi spoke while featuring on programme on Television Continental, Your View.

The Federal Government, through the PSC, had on Monday reviewed the country’s COVID -19 guidelines by restricting gatherings at places of worship centres and banning nightclubs as parts of measures aimed at preventing the spread of devastating strains of COVID-19 into the country.

In the interview, Olugbogi said the new guidelines were essential.

He described them as proactive steps by the government to combat the spread of the virus across the country.

He said, “It is due to what is happening all over the world actually. I think the government is just trying to be proactive instead of being reactive. So, that is what is going on.

“We are having variants in some countries. We have increased social meetings everywhere now, relaxation of the public health and social preventive measures all over the world now, and a lot of people have not received the vaccine.

“So, some countries have what we call a third wave or a fourth wave, and because of that, a lot of people are getting the infection afresh because they have relaxed public health preventive measures. So, I think the Federal Government is just trying to prevent that from happening here.

“If you look around, a lot of people have stopped wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers. We can’t even say that health workers are left out.

“We have all let our guards down, and I think government is just trying to prevent what is happening in places like India from happening here. That is why the new measures are out.”

Olugbogi said until COVID-19 was defeated in every part of the world, Nigerians had to keep putting up preventive measures to curtail the pandemic.

“We cannot defeat COVID until COVID has been defeated all over the world because the way it works in public health is that if we still have this pandemic even in one country, it can spread to other countries of the world,” he added.

But the National President of the Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, Cleric Alaowei, on Tuesday, faulted the new guidelines released by the PSC on COVID-19.

Alaowei described the guidelines as “most insensitive and unreasonable.”

He made his position known in a statement titled ‘COVID-19: The new restriction order is unnecessary.’

It read, “The new restriction order given by the Presidential Steering Committee to partially lock down the economy is uncalled for.

“The order is most insensitive and unreasonable. We do not see any reason for the new restriction which will only further heighten the hardship in the country.

“Even as of today, the daily figure being released by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is barely 49 or thereabouts.”

Alaowei said while his organisation was not opposed to the measures and safety protocols being undertaken to curtail the spread of the disease, he said the organisation was concerned about the continued locking down of the economy.

The statement added, “No doubt that the continued closing down of bars, recreational centres, nightclubs and restaurants breeds unemployment which is a dangerous omen to the society.

“Already, millions of Nigerians have been displaced by the lockdown of the economy last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Many of those unemployed minds are becoming burden to the society.

“The hike in kidnappings, armed robberies, cultism and other social vices in the country are direct consequences of unemployment. The Federal Government should not by act or omission relieve additional work force into the idle market. Nigeria is presently under siege. No part of the country as we all aware is secured. The PSC should not create additional set of unemployed minds to endanger the society.

“There is no spike in the spread of the disease. What Nigeria needs now is national emergency to tackle our intractable conundrum which is insecurity. The only lockdown the country needs now is partial state of emergency. The Federal Government  should declare state of emergency in parts of the North, especially in the North-East, North-West and parts of the North-Central. The partial emergency should also be extended to the South-East, South-West and part of the South-South.”

Viral video on COVID-19 guidelines old, says PSC

Also on Tuesday, the PSC on COVID-19  advised Nigerians to disregard a video clip being circulated on various social media platforms as the new guidelines released by the committee.

 The committee said the guidelines in the circulated video were issued in April 2020.

 In the 55 seconds clip obtained by one of our correspondents, the National Coordinator of the defunct Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, was seen urging  Nigerians to ignore the message that the task force had declared lockdown.

Aliyu said, “We are aware of the fake message that has been going round that we have declared lockdown in the country, this is not true.

“I am calling on the general public to ignore this message and continue with their normal activities and abide by non-pharmaceutical measures which include wearing face masks in public, washing your hands and keeping of distance.

“There is an established way of passing our messages to the public. Please ignore what has been going round.”

In a statement by the Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation   Willie Bassey, the committee said the viral video had nothing to do with the recently released guidelines.

The statement titled, ‘PSC says video in circulation not new’ read, “The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, wishes to inform the public that the audiovisual clip of the erstwhile national coordinator under the defunct PTF circulating on the social media is an old video and has nothing to do with the recent guidelines released.”

It explained that the recently released implementation guidelines were  “not new as being speculated.”

The statement further explained the guidelines, which were issued in 2020, were reissued on Monday “to reinforce existing provisions of the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations, 2021 to serve as a reminder that COVID-19 is still virulent.

“The Presidential Steering Committee urges the public to disregard the old video of the PTF circulating on the social media and to comply with non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in all their activities to avoid a surge as being experienced in some parts of the world. All state governments are to please ensure strict compliance.”

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