The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said six new cases of the British variant of coronavirus were found in the West African nation at the weekend.
NCDC Director-General Chikwe Iheakwazu said the variant was detected in samples collected by scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) at a university in southwestern Osun state.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has swept Britain and been found in more than 60 nations. The British government last month said early data suggested the strain could be deadlier as well as more transmissible.
Iheakwazu said five cases had been detected in Osun state and one in Kwara state.
“This is the variant of concern that first emerged in the UK,” he said, during a Monday briefing.
“The five in Osun is most likely related to the fact that this is where ACEGID is and where they get a lot of samples from. In total, we have detected the B.1.1.7 variant in seven cases within Nigeria.”
He said Nigeria had begun sequencing positive samples among travellers from Britain and South Africa.
Nigeria was spared the brunt of infections initially after the pandemic first emerged in China in late 2019, but the case tally has jumped in a new wave.
The second wave which began in November, reached a peak two weeks ago.
So far, the virus has infected nearly 132,000 people and claimed 1,607 lives in Africa’s most populous nation, which has 200 million people.
According to the NCDC, 405 of the deaths occurred in the last two months.
Officials said Nigeria hopes to receive 16 million doses of vaccines against the disease this month.