A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in Nigeria, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Iheakwazu, has said.

Mr Iheakwazu while speaking at Monday’s weekly briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 said the new variant dubbed B.1.525 was first discovered in a sample collected on November 23 from a patient in Lagos State.

He said the B.1.525 variant, which has spread to a few other countries, has not been classified as a variant of concern.

“So far, this has been detected among cases in five states in Nigeria. B.1.525 cases have also been reported in other countries in travellers from Nigeria,” a statement by the infectious disease agency shows.

He said researchers and scientists are working hard to understand if the variant has any impact on transmissibility, severity, immunity, diagnostic and already approved vaccines.

The B.1.525 variant contains a genetic change called E484K, also found in the Brazilian and South African variants, BBC reported.

The variant has been seen in other countries like Denmark and the United States.

Public Health England (PHE) has said there is no evidence that the mutations in the new variant make the virus more transmissible or cause severe disease.

UK variant

Mr Iheakwazu said Nigeria has now confirmed 54 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant within its borders.

He said the cases were found between November 2020 and February 2021.

He noted that scientists are monitoring the strain to understand its circulation rates in the country.

“We have confirmed 54 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant between November 2020 and February 2021,” Mr Ihekweazu said.

“That is a significant number out of the 400 we have sequenced since the beginning of the outbreak.”

The B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant was first detected in the United Kingdom and has spread to over 80 countries in the world.

Mr Ihekweazu said Nigeria is scaling up its sequencing capacity to help it understand ongoing transmission.

He said about 100 samples will be sent to the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at the Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State for sequencing every week.

The NCDC boss urged the public to continue to adhere to all non pharmaceutical measures put in place to limit spread of the virus.

“While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, handwashing, physical distancing and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

Nigeria has recorded over 150,000 COVID-19 cases and over 1,800 deaths from the virus.

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