The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has arrived Nigeria, the Director-General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu has confirmed.
The Delta variant is recognised by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern, given its increased transmissibility. The variant has been detected in over 90 countries and 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, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases 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.
He disclosed that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has initiated several measures to reduce the risk of spread of Coronavirus. These include 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.
Given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, the NCDC boss urged Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place.
“Proven public health and social measures such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing 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 for rapid testing of their population,” he advised.
“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,” said the NCDC boss.