The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Iheakwazu, said the mutant strain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK has not been found in Nigeria.
Iheakwazu, who made the disclosure on Thursday in Abuja during the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) briefing on COVID-19, however, advised Nigerians to stay calm and safe.
He, however, noted that viruses by their very nature mutate.
He said that the NCDC, in collaboration with the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), did some sequencing in the past but did not find the UK variant which he described as deadlier than the original strain.
“Over the last few days, we have monitored reports of the virus mutating in the UK, South Africa, and some other countries, but it is 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 haven’t found the UK strain but it is not something we have been looking for…To find that you have to do sequencing and our focus has not been on sequencing. We did some sequencing in the past but we haven’t 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,” he said.
Iheakwazu said NCDC would collaborate with other stakeholders to collect new samples for sequencing in order to determine their variants.
“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.
According to him, the NCDC centre is working on adopting the use of rapid diagnostic test kits from next year in order to scale up testing.
He said: “On testing, there is light at the end of the tunnel… We have made a significant procurement that is coming in in January and through that, we are taking testing closer to the people and away from the laboratories.”