The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has clarified that the mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus in the UK has not been found in Nigeria.
Iheakwazu, who made the disclosure in Abuja during the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday, however, urged Nigerians to stay calm and safe.
He explained that viruses by their very nature mutate.
According to him, the NCDC, in collaboration with the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), did some sequencing in the past but didn’t find the UK variant which he described as deadlier than the original strain.
“Over the last few days, we’ve monitored reports of the virus mutating in the UK, South Africa and some other countries, but it’s important to establish some facts about what we know, what we do not know and what we are willing to learn over the next few years.
“We have not found the UK strain but it’s not something we have been looking for…To find that you’ve to do sequencing and our focus has not been on sequencing. We did some sequencing in the past but we have not found that.
“However, we are doing more sequencing now. Is it possible that they are circulating? Yes. This is because there are a lot of travels between the UK and Nigeria,” Iheakwazu said.
Iheakwazu said the NCDC will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders to collect new samples for sequencing in order to determine their variant.
“This is ongoing work. It cannot happen in a hurry. It is very complex. Sequencing is not a straightforward business which is why we have only a few centres that are able to do it,” he said.
The NCDC boss also urged states to reopen their testing centres, saying the NCDC alone could not conduct all COVID-19 tests received from states.