Claim: A news blog @lindaikejiblogofficial claims Indian COVID-19 variant is now in Nigeria
The Indian variant–B.1.617–has been confirmed in Nigeria with cases in Edo and Osun states.
Viruses mutate all the time, producing different versions or variants of themselves. While most of these mutations are insignificant, others can be more contagious and harder to vaccinate against.
The virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. A United State (US) government inter-agency group developed a Variant Classification scheme that classifies COVID-19 into three: variants of interest, variants of concern, and variants of high consequence.
Recently a news blog @Lindaikejiblogoffical claims that a new variant from India is now in Nigeria and has been found in Edo and Osun states in Nigeria. This blog quoted Professor Oyewale Tomori as saying this at an interview with Leadership newspaper.
Screenshots of this post have been making the rounds on WhatsApp and was sent in for verification by one of our subscribers prompting Dubawa to look into the claim.
Dubawa conducted a keyword search on the Indian variant and its spread, and to find accredited reports on such variants.
Is there an Indian variant?
Yes, there is a variant known as B.1.617 which was first detected in India in October 2020. This variant, which has been classified as one of global concern, has spread to 49 countries. So far, seven African nations including Nigeria have now officially detected the variant within their territories.
Our keyword search also led to the report accredited by the news blog. The report by Leadership which was published on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, according to Tomori, revealed the Indian COVID-19 variant has entered Nigeria.
Professor Tomori said Nigeria has recorded five cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant in Osun and Edo states.
Who is Professor Tomori?
Professor Oyewale Tomori is a biologist and a member of the Global Virome Project Leadership Board.
Oyewale is the immediate past President of the Nigerian Academy of Science with experience in virology, disease prevention and control.
Between 1994 to 2004, he worked with the World Health Organization’s Africa Region, from where he participated in establishing the African Regional Polio Laboratory Network. He moved on to become the Vice Chancellor of the Redeemer’s University in Nigeria from 2004 to 2011.
Dubawa’s search also led to other reports confirming the variant’s existence in Nigeria. A report by Pulse Nigeria quoted Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as confirming that the variant has been in Nigeria for three weeks already.
Another report by Punch noted that the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID) in the Redeemers University Ede, Osun State alerted the NCDC of Indian’s new variant three weeks ago.
Also, a Twitter post by the centre revealed the existence of the variant, noting it will provide an update on the virus during its Director-General, Chike Ihekweazu’s, appearance on Arise TV.
Dubawa found the Arise TV morning show on Youtube with the NCDC speaking on the Indian variant in Nigeria. The DG confirmed the centre was informed by the Research Institute, ACEGID, which is one of its partners in the research about the Indian variant three weeks ago.
In this video, he added that the country has everything under control, noting the travel ban on India, Turkey, and Brazil two weeks ago was a product of its advice to the government after conducting a risk assessment.
Yes, the Indian variant, B.1.617, was found in Nigeria three weeks ago and the NCDC has confirmed that it has everything under control. As new variants continue to emerge, scientists are working on learning about their characteristics (how easily they spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether existing approved vaccines will protect people against them). Nevertheless, it is recommended to continue observing COVID-19 preventive measures.