Nigerian researchers say the new COVID-19 variant recently detected in the UK is already present in Nigeria and may be spreading among the local population.
Scientists at the Africa Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemers University, Ede, say they found the mutated virus in samples collected in Osun State back in August.
Another sample, also taken from Osun State, is said to have contained the variant strain as well.
The researchers published their findings in Virological, a website hosting papers from across the global genomics community.
Named lineage B.1.1.7, the mutated virus was first detected in the United Kingdom in September. Experts believe that the new strain may be up to 70% more transmissible than the earlier kind.
It has since appearded in some other countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Concern about the global spread of the strain has caused many countries to ban flights coming into them from the UK.
The UK has imposed significant limitations on human gatherings and movement in many parts of England’s South East, where the mutated virus is most prevalent.
Nigerian officials say they are mulling new restrictions on international travel. They are yet to implement new measures in this direction.
The discovery of the mutated SARS-CoV-2 in Nigeria suggests that it may already be circulating among the local population in Nigeria.
However, Dr. Christian Happi, Director at the Africa Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, says there’s currently no evidence that the new strain has contributed significantly to the spike in coronavirus infection rates reported by the NCDC in recent times.
Meanwhile, the federal government has ordered the closure of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and event centers, in a bid to halt the increased spread of COVID-19 in the country.