Experts have announced that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus which has been found in Nigeria is independent of the variant in the United Kingdom.
The new UK variant which was first 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 larger part of the United Kingdom, leading to a travel ban on the UK by over 40 countries, excluding Nigeria.
This has left people wondering if a new strain of COVID-19 discovered in the UK is responsible for the current spike in cases in Nigeria, described as the 2nd wave.
Professor Christian Happi, Director of Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemer’s University in an interview with Channels Television said the new variant has not been detected in Nigeria.
“The variant that we found in Nigeria is independent of the UK variant. It is originated from Nigeria but shares similarities with the UK variant. There is also no association between the one we found in Nigeria and the spec that we just found.
“We are working with the NCDC to analyse the samples presently in Nigeria to see if there is any relationship between it and the recent spike in confirmed cases,” Professor Happi said.
However, scientists at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) are studying COVID-19 samples submitted in the last few weeks to determine if the latest strain of the virus discovered in the UK is in Nigeria and in what percentage.
The perceived characteristics of the new variant are causing some concern among experts as it is believed to be highly transmittable.
Senior Research Fellow, NIMR, Chika Onwuamah also in an interview with Channels Television said the UK variant is believed to be highly transmittable.
“Even a smaller threshold of it can cause an infection and it is 70% more transmittable than what we had earlier. That is the concern and that is why some people are trying to cut off people from UK and UK is trying to make high level of restriction in some particular cluster where they found it,” Onwuamah.
Nigeria in December recorded a rise in the number of cases and an increase in deaths, experts however noted that it is yet to be established if a new variant is responsible for the surge in the number of cases.