Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, the head of Africa's Centre for Disease Control said on Thursday, but he added more investigation was needed.
The new discovery comes as similar variants were announced in Britain and South Africa, causing international travel restrictions being reimposed as the world enters the festive season.
Dr John Nkengasong said: “it’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa.”
He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will be analyzing more samples.
“Give us some time... it’s still very early,” he said.
The variant was found in two patient samples collected on Aug. 3 and on Oct. 9 in Nigeria's Osun state, according to a working research paper seen by The Associated Press.
South African strain
Meanwhile, Nkengasong said that the new variant found in South Africa accounted for the "vast majority of the second wave" in the country, because of the speed in which it can pass from person to person.
“We believe this mutation will not have an effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent, he said of the South Africa variant.
South Africa’s health minister late Wednesday announced an “alarming rate of spread” in that country, with more than 14,000 new cases confirmed in the past day, including more than 400 deaths. It was the largest single-day increase in cases.
The country has more than 950,000 infections and COVID-19 is “unrelenting,” Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said.
But he said social distancing measures and testing would prevent the need for travel restrictions across the continent.
Nkengasong said the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was assessing whether vaccines being developed would still be effective.
Despite this, he said there was "absolutely no need" to restrict movement because negative COVID-19 tests are required for travel.
"What we should focus on is really the measures that are in place to prevent transmission of COVID, not a specific variant," he said.