Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease
Control (NCDC), explained that the UK mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus has
not been identified in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, Iheakwazu, who made the disclosure in Abuja during
Thursday’s Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on COVID-19, urged Nigerians
to remain calm and safe.
He clarified the fact that viruses mutate by their own existence.
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.
In order to evaluate its variant, Iheakwazu said
the NCDC would continue to work with other stakeholders to gather new samples
“This work is continuing. In a rush, that
cannot happen. It is very confusing. “Sequencing is not an easy business,
which is why we have only a few centers that can do it,” he said.
The NCDC boss also encouraged states to reopen
their research centers, saying that all COVID-19 checks obtained from states
should not be performed by the NCDC alone.