The B117 variant of COVID-19 found in the United Kingdom (UK) is in Nigeria, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control said on Monday.
PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha who announced this, expressed concerns about increasing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the last one week.
According to him, the PTF had been monitoring developments around case management, infection, deaths and new trends.
Speaking on the strain in Nigeria, the SGF explained that four persons had been diagnosed with it, adding that while three were travellers from Nigeria to other places, the fourth cases was discovered in the country.
Mustapha said: “Our scientists have been sequencing the variants of the virus.
“There have been reports of cases with the B117 variant strain, first reported in the UK, found in Nigeria. Three of these were in travelers out of Nigeria and one in a resident.”
He said the PTF plans to take further containment actions to slow down the spread of the virus, with special attention to be paid to high-burden council areas.
He said: “The daily statistics for Nigeria as at 24th January were as follows: Cases – 121,566; Tests – 1,270,523; Active Cases – 22,834 (19.4%); Discharged – 97,228;Deaths – 1,504.
“Looking back over the seven days ending 23rd January, I also wish to give you the following statistics: Tests – 58,974; Cases – 11,179; Test Positivity – 19.0%; Deaths – 62; Case Fatality Ratio – 0.6%; Active: 23,568; % Active – 19.4%
“All these numbers represent increases from the previous seven days and we are looking at taking further public health containment measures in Local Government Areas that are considered high burden.”
Mustapha explained that though the five weeks of observance for guidelines introduced for the third phase of the eased lockdown had expired, the set of measures assembled for the period would be sustained for another month, citing increasing numbers as reason.
Mustapha said: “The PTF is improving on the International Travel Portal to minimize the challenges passengers keep encountering. Similarly, it is reviewing the guidelines on the implementation of phase three of the eased lockdown which is due to expire today.
“In view of the fact that our numbers are not abating, all extant measures prescribed in these guidelines are (subject to some modifications) extended by a period of one month with effect from Tuesday 26th January, 2020.
“These measures, by way of reminder, include: advisory to the sub-national entities to enforce adherence to non-pharmaceutical initiatives already well publicised; sanctions against international passengers that failed to show up for day-seven post arrival testing.
“Implementation of the National Testing Week Strategy (450/774 tests); sustaining the hours of curfew; and the decision to direct government employees on GL 12 and below to work from home till the end of January.”
On the plans to acquire and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, he again assured Nigerians that there was no need for hesitancy as only trustworthy and safe vaccines would be allowed in the country.
He warned against patronising unverified sources for the vaccine.
He said: “The effort to access and deploy vaccines is progressing and as already announced by COVAX, the initial 100,000 doses Nigeria is expecting will now arrive in the early weeks of February.
“We wish to assure all Nigerians that the vaccines will be safe and effective when eventually it is deployed. We enjoin everyone to join in the campaign to eliminate vaccine hesitancy.
“I have to however, advise all Nigerians that the only source of vaccines that is safe and effective in Nigeria is through the channels of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
“Please, do not patronise any one hawking or marketing vaccines. The Hon Minister of Health and the ED-NPHCDA will elaborate on the vaccines issue.”
He expressed delight in the gradual improvement so far observed with case management, even as he spoke of top gears preparations for the upcoming national testing week.
He spoke of plans to bring back some 600 Nigerians deported from Saudi Arabia.
Mustapha said: “Nigeria is currently working with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the deportation of 600 Nigerians. The deportees are expected to arrive in two batches on the 28th and 29th January, 2021. All necessary arrangements to ensure that these Nigerians are properly received are being put in place.”