By Olatunji Saliu
Nigeria has so far recorded a total of 10 cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, following the first case of that deadly variant in the west African country early this month, local authorities said on Tuesday.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), which spearheads the national response to the pandemic said, however, it will continue to intensify its surveillance to prevent an alarming rate of spread.
“With sequencing efforts, we have detected 10 cases which are confirmed to be the Delta variant,” Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of the NCDC, told reporters in Abuja on Tuesday morning.
“We are working hard to ensure genomic surveillance of travelers’ samples and to scale up our genomic sequencing capacity. While doing this, we are scaling up our testing capability, by the rollout of rapid diagnostic test kits in selected states nationwide,” he said.
The number of virus transmission in the country has begun to rise again, weeks after the country sustained a low test positivity rate, the official noted.
On July 8, Nigerian health authorities first announced they detected the Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, in a traveler to the country, following the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at a laboratory in Abuja.
Three days later, another case of the variant was reported in the southwestern state of Oyo.
According to Ihekweazu, the country’s test positive rate based on the Polymerase Chain Reaction test alone had indicated the level of virus transmission increased to 3.4 percent.
“This represents a rise, compared to the test positivity rate, which was sustained for several weeks at around 1 percent in the country,” he explained.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said there would be a need for continued testing, noting it is part of the recommended control measures to limit the spread of the new variant.
Ehanire said monitoring teams have been deployed to all entry points to check the importation, particularly of the virulent strains of COVID-19, and to be able to identify and get them under control.
At an earlier press conference on June 29, the minister said Nigeria had prepared adequately “to ensure system resilience” ahead of a third wave of the COVID-19.
Oxygen sufficiency is of high priority, as the Nigerian health authorities have observed in countries going through the third wave, Ehanire said.
He explained that the Nigerian government had placed an order for 38 oxygen generation plants, with one expected to be provided in each of the country’s 36 states, while Lagos, the economic hub, will have two, due to its high burden.
Over 420 new oxygen cylinders are on order, to support distribution and availability, just along with 12 liquid oxygen tanks of 10,000 liters each, with vaporizers, to be also stationed where they can refill cylinders easily, he said.
“This will expand access to oxygen nationwide and make it available to treat patients with other conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, and sickle cell anemia,” the official added.
On May 4, Nigeria effected a travel restriction from India, Turkey, and Brazil, where there is a surge in cases associated with the widespread prevalence of variants of concern.
On June 28, the government added South Africa to its “red list” of countries for which there are restrictions for arriving passengers.
A total of 213 new confirmed cases and two deaths were recorded across Nigeria on Monday, according to data by the NCDC.
So far, the most populous African country has confirmed 171,324 cases out of which 164,798 cases have been discharged, and 2,134 deaths have been recorded.