From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Fred Eze, Abuja
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed detection of SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2 in the country.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu confirmed this Thursday evening, urging Nigerians that given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place.
The Delta variant which has been detected in over 90 countries is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern, given its increased transmissibility. The variant is expected to spread to more countries.
The variant 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.
Ihekweazu noted that as part of the country’s COVID-19 response, the agency had 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 travelers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly,” he explained.
According to him, the Federal Government through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has initiated several measures to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.
This, he said includes the introduction of travel restrictions from countries where there is a surge in cases associated with widespread prevalence of variants of concern. The national travel protocol which includes compulsory seven-day self-isolation and repeat test on the seventh day after arrival, are in place to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.
The NCDC stressed that it was very important that this was strictly adhered to, to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Ihekweazu said: “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.
“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,” he advised.
The NCDC boss added that “Although we have seen a low number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria in the last eight weeks, it is incredibly important that we do not 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”.
According to him, the recommended control measures to limit the spread of the Delta variant continue to be testing, following the existing public health guidance and abiding by the current travel and public restrictions.