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For Nigeria, fresh threat knocks as Ghana finds Delta variant locally

Nigeria has a fresh COVID-19 threat knocking as its neighbour, Ghana, detects the Delta variant of the virus locally, following its latest series of genomic sequencing.

Ghana’s Health Service on Friday announced it has handpicked a few positive persons who were not arriving passengers, although their health remains stable.

The country’s new discovery shows the variant causing fresh spikes in Covid-19 cases globally is close to home and Nigeria needs to intensify surveillance again.

The National Centre for Disease Control had on Monday dismissed the presence of the variant in Nigeria during the briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 where Chike Iheakweazu, director-general of the centre explained that 40 new sequences were done and none pointed to the virus.

Four days later, Ghana found Delta.

The NCDC said it is banking on access to limited vaccines adherence to public health measures including travel restrictions to mitigate the risk of the virus in Nigeria.

“The significant risk in South Africa and many of the other countries seeing a resurgence of cases at the moment is being driven by a new variant now classified as the delta variant. In Nigeria, we haven’t found the variant yet. We keep looking,” Iheakweazu said.

The Delta variant is a highly contagious strain of Covid-19 believed to be more transmissible and dangerous than others.

It was initially detected in India last December but has spread to about 100 countries, forcing the World Health Organisation to declare it a variant of concern.

Now, it accounts for 95 percent of new Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom and 25 percent of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S., and is on track to become the dominant version of the virus circulating among countries.

Read also: South Africa to produce 500m doses of covid vaccines with World Bank support

Research suggests that delta, officially known as B.1.617.2, is the most contagious of all the known variants to date, 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant, though studies are ongoing.

Since SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 began to evolve, none of the new strains detected in Nigeria has had a wave serious enough to cause a crushing impact such as witnessed in India and some other parts of the world, contrary to popular expectations and reasons yet to be explained.

About 55 different lineages of SARS-CoV-2 were circulating in Nigeria as of February, changing rapidly. The NCDC attributes the plurality of strains to multiple introductions of the virus into Nigeria from different countries and evidence of community transmission in different states.

Nigeria only had 29 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that launched the United Kingdom into a second lockdown due to its high transmission rate.

Nigeria was feared to be approaching an ill-fate that never arrived, despite relaxed preventive measures and the strain scattered across Lagos, FCT, Osun, Oyo, Kwara and Edo States.

Last month, the Africa Centre for Disease Control (ACDC), admitted that Covid-19 infection and mortality rates in Africa remains a puzzle, against early forecasts that the pandemic might spell a mind-boggling catastrophe.

“This is unlike India where the virus surprised the country and the devastation has been very visible. There’s a paradox or puzzle between the last number of people that are potentially infected and the relatively low rate of mortality,” John Nkengasong, director, Africa CDC said at a health conference in June.

Although, individuals suffering underlying illnesses remain at risk of quick deterioration if exposed to the virus.

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