COVID-19: NCDC says rapid mutations, new changes, escalate cases in countries

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The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has said the rapid mutations and new changes of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have led to escalation of cases in many countries.

Its Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said this at the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) briefing on Monday in Abuja.

According to him, it is in this mutations and new changes that new variants emerge and those variants have led to the most rapid escalation of cases as we have seen in many countries.

”The virus changing, the more it is transmitted, the more it develops more mutations, the more it develops the capacity to move from one individual to the other,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that Nigerians should look at the curves in other countries.

”What that tells us is that, if we are to face a situation like that, we will not have the time to prepare.

”We have to use the opportunity the virus gives us now to prepare while also trying to prevent.

“To do that, we have to understand what happens within the virus by consistently testing people.

”We have sustained our testing effort to between 30,000 and 40,000 tests a week and the two million mark a little bit later than we anticipated is still good progress,” he explained.

Ihekweazu said that the other aspect is to identify the variant which could only be done with a technique called sequencing.

“We have now sequenced about 700 across the country, not enough but a fair bit, given how complex it is to do that.

”I want to thank our colleagues at the African Centre for Genomics in Ede, who have been supporting the country on sequencing,” he said.

Ihekweazu disclosed that the country’s focus is to scale up capacity in the next few weeks.

He said: “As we continue to understand the virus, we will understand what we need to do about the virus.

The DG said the Federal Government was happy with the results it had received across the country on vaccine acceptance.

He said most states got the available vaccines and had vaccinated some eligible persons, adding that these efforts had to be sustained through advocating for more supplies both locally and globally.

“The health authorities had taken time to advocate to countries, discussing bilateral terms and multilateral terms to gain more access to the vaccines and make it more accessible to our people,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that government had done a lot of work to enable supply of vaccines.

He said that Nigerians could do more in area of the virus by understanding the risk they face and what they could do about it.

”You have to think about the curve in India.

”A single event can lead to one individual transmitting to thousands.

”So, everybody going to gatherings has to think about the consequences of that action, that is where the risk happens,” he said.

Ihekweazu added that when the complete analysis in India was done, it was very likely that certain gatherings linked to politics was most likely to have instigated spread of the infections in that country.

“Religious, political events are no stranger to us in Nigeria. We have to be aware of those risks to us, because we don’t want to get back to where we were a few weeks ago.

“If we look at the risk we face in these three areas, around the vaccine, virus and our behaviour, we might be better prepared to do what we need to do as a country to mitigate all of that,” he said.

The NCDC boss, however urged Nigerians to keep working with the health authorities because they are working very hard on prevention.

He said that the Federal Government had taken very difficult decision in limiting travel to countries.

“We need everyone to work together so that we can keep the small gain we have made,” he said.

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