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Coronavirus

New Virus Variant Appears to Emerge in Nigeria

December 24, 2020

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, but further investigation is needed.

John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Thursday that “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 will analyze more samples.

The new variant in South Africa is now the predominant one there, Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach 1 million. While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he said.

He said health authorities believe the the South Africa variant “will not have an effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. The new variant in South Africa now makes up most of the country’s rapidly rising new cases. South Africa’s health minister says there is an “alarming rate of spread.”

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