[By Sopuruchi Onwuka]
The new wave of the dreaded novel coronavirus disease also called covid-19 has delivered a double blow for Nigeria: rapid jump in the number of cases and new virus strain that is completely unique to the country.
According to the Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC), the P681H variant was found in two patient samples collected on Aug. 3 and on Oct. 9 in Osun state. However, study is still ongoing to link the new strain to a sharp rise in the number of cases in the country.
The Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) had on Thursday declared 1,133 new confirmed cases of covid-19 and five related deaths for the previous December 23, 2020 in Nigeria. The update boosted Nigeria’s covid-19 status to 80,922 confirmed cases and 1,236 resulting deaths in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The NCDC also stated in the update that the official data were based on only a paltry total of 912,114 samples tested in a country of nearly 200 million population with rising cases and fatal casualties of the disease.
The Nigerian strain of the virus compounds confusions over new dimensions in the global measures against the pandemic after similar variants announced in Britain and South Africa led to fresh international travel restrictions.
Head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that the NCDC would work with African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases to analyze more samples and determine if the new strain is responsible for any change in infection mode.
He pointed at the very low scale of tests in Nigeria as a major capacity gap, adding that the situation might imply reduced power to detect such changes.
According to Africa CDC, Nigeria now leads spikes of new covid-19 infections in the continent with 52 percent increase in new country infections cases, ahead of South Africa which comes with 40 percent increase in new country infection cases.
Infections across the African continent have now risen by 10.9% over the past four weeks to more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3% of global cases, the Africa CDC director said.
Fears are high that the covid-19 infection cases in Nigeria could be far worse if testing capacity were adequate, especially with the news that the NCDC is currently coping with a surge in the number of samples submitted from hospitals to assist with diagnosis.
“Over recent weeks, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of samples to (Nigeria CDC) reference lab,” the CDC director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu tweeted on Thursday. “This has led to an unusual delay with testing, but we’re working around the clock,” with many colleagues cutting short their holidays and returning to work.
In response to the apparent rise in the number of covid-19 cases across major cities in the country, the government has begun imposition of previously relaxed virus restrictions, including limits on gatherings, and recommended closings of bars, nightclubs and similar venues.