A professor of virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has revealed that the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant has already entered Nigeria.
The strain was detected by the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in the Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State nearly three weeks ago and has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
In an interview with Leadership, Tomori said Nigeria has recorded five cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant in Osun and Edo states. According to him, if Nigerians decide to observe celebrations like Sallah, the country may end up like India.
Recall that the Federal Government on Monday restricted gatherings at worship centres and banned nightclubs following reports that the devastating COVID-19 strain in South Africa had spread to 23 other countries.
The PUNCH was informed on Tuesday that the detection of the Indian strain in Nigeria contributed to the fresh regulations issued by the Federal Government.
The detection had been listed on GISAID, a global science initiative that provided open access to genomic data of influenza viruses.
A notification dated April 25, 2021, sent by Professor Christian Hapi of the ACEGID to the NCDC read in part,
“We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.”
However, The PUNCH learnt that subsequent observations showed that so far, the strain had not shown the same kind of viciousness displayed in India where 400,000 persons were infected daily and 157 died per hour.
Speaking, Hapi said the information was sent to the NCDC two weeks ago. Hapi, however, clarified that strain in India has two more mutations than the one identified in Nigeria which makes the one in India more aggressive.
“What we have is the B1.617 from India. That is the variant they had but that variant has now evolved beyond the mutation that we identified.
“The one India evolved by two mutations. It is the same strain with India but their own now has a couple of mutations. So, it is the same as what we detected but also different in characteristics.”
Virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Tomori, told PUNCH that he was also aware of the detection of the Indian strain.
“The NCDC has discovered the India strain in Nigeria, but nobody is telling you that. This is the kind of message we should be telling Nigerians, that the Indian strain of COVID-19 is here with us.
Remember what happened in December 2020 when Nigerians decided to celebrate Christmas, traveling from one place to another and then in January we had a surge of cases and people started dying due to COVID-19.
We need to learn from India. The people of India let down their guards and we all can see the consequences of their actions.”
The virologist further stated that Nigeria is not carrying out enough tests, hence the reason for the low figures of COVID-19 cases recorded in Nigeria. He said:
“Imagine in a whole state, NCDC only reported one sample in a week. Also, in the 36 states of the federation, only three states are reporting or testing for the last two to three months. So the low figures of cases reported was because we are not testing.
There is increasing cases of people who want to travel but could not because they are COVID-19 positive. This should tell us that COVID-19 is still very much with us.”
He commended the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 for the re-introduction of the restriction of movement and gathering to curb the spread of the virus in the country.
“This is the first time I am fully supporting the government. We shouldn’t let down our guards. I commend the PSC, they are doing the right thing for the first time and I fully support them.”