Indian COVID-19 strain now in Nigeria – Experts

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THE African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in the Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State says COVID-19 strain, which is currently ravaging India has been found in Nigeria.

  Disclosing this in a statement released to the media and dated April 25, 2021, the Institution’s Professor, Christian Hapi said that the strain detected in Osun, Edo is the same with India’s but different in characteristic.

   “We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.” 

  “It was detected nearly three weeks ago and has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.”

  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.”

  According to Virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, it is clear that the Indian strain is here and there should be announcement to that effect by health authourities in Nigeria.

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

  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.

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  According to report, 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.

 It was gathered 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.

  For Tomori, it was important for the government to announce the detection of the Indian strain, adding that there was need to increase testing. He noted that many states were no longer conducting test for COVID-19.

  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.

  Meanwhile, the Chairman, Committee on Infectious Disease for the Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State branch, Japheth Olugbogi, yesterday 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.

  Meanwhile, report says 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.

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

 “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.

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

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  “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.

  Meanwhile, the PSC on COVID-19 Tuesday 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.

 “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.” Aliyu said.

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.

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