Nigeria confirms first case of delta strain of COVID-19

Nigeria has confirmed its first case of the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Thursday.

The strain was detected during routine tests for in-bound travellers.

“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has detected a confirmed case with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2,” the centre said in a statement signed by its head of communications, Yahaya Disu.

“The variant was detected in a traveller to Nigeria following the routine travel test required of all international travellers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja,” it said.

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The Delta variant, first identified in India, is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern given its increased transmissibility.

The variant has been detected in over 90 countries and is expected to spread to more countries. It has also been linked to a surge in cases in countries where it is the dominant strain in circulation.

There are ongoing studies to understand the impact of the variant on existing vaccines and therapeutics.

As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, NCDC has been working with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), and other laboratories within the national network to carry out genomic sequencing. This is to enable the detection of variants of concern and initiate response activities.

All data on variants from Nigeria have been published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data. Given the global risk of spread of the Delta variant, positive samples from international travellers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly.

Given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, NCDC urged all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place.

“Proven public health and social measures such as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and proper use of face masks prevent infections and save lives. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and offers protection against the disease,” NCDC said in the statement.

“Additionally, states are urged to ensure sample collection and testing for COVID-19 is accessible to the public. Public settings such as schools with accommodation facilities, workplaces and camps should utilise the approved Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for rapid testing of their population,” it said.

Chikwe ihekweazu, NCDC director general, said although Nigeria has seen a low number of COVID-19 cases in the last eight weeks, it was important not to forget to be careful.

“The surge in cases in countries across the world and Africa is an important reminder of the risk we face. Please protect yourselves and the people you love by adhering to the known public health and social measures, getting vaccinated if you are eligible and getting tested if you have symptoms,” he said.