Roundup: Nigeria on high alert for Delta variant of COVID-19: official

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ABUJA, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Nigeria is yet to record a case of the Delta variant of COVID-19 but is on high alert for the variant that was first detected in India and later identified in scores of countries across the world, local authorities have said.

Nigerian health authorities are monitoring the development in other African countries where the resurgence of cases has been driven by the Delta variant, Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said in a statement reaching Xinhua on Tuesday.

"In Nigeria, we have not found such variants of concern. We looked at 40 new sequences last week, and just to be sure, we are yet to identify any as we keep looking," Ihekweazu said.

This Delta variant has the enhanced ability to prey on the vulnerable, particularly in places with low vaccination rates, he noted.

The most populous African country is already putting measures in place to prevent a third wave of the COVID-19, according to the health official.

He said as long as the country has access to the vaccine and carries out the public health measures as much as possible, including travel restrictions, there is a high possibility of mitigating the risk of the virus in Nigeria.

"The good news is that the vaccines available in the country at the moment are still very effective against the Delta variant," Ihekweazu noted.

Meanwhile, the government is scaling up surveillance at all entry points in order to prevent the third wave of COVID-19, Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire, said at a daily press conference in Abuja on Monday.

Ehanire said monitoring teams have been deployed to all entry points to check the importation, particularly of the virulent strains of the COVID-19, and to be able to identify and get them under control.

"While we are taking steps to contain the third wave, we must continue to take proactive steps," the minister said.

According to official data, the West African country has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases. A total of 65 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in five states across the country on Monday.

However, authorities have continued to warn against negligence. The NCDC said it will endeavor to increase the testing rate, to identify positive cases early for isolation and treatment.

"In the past four weeks, we have done 40,000 to 50,000 samples weekly, with 949 confirmed," Ehanire said. "Nigeria has so far escaped the worst of COVID-19 and the dire predictions made about us. We may even seem to be doing well, but I wish to emphasize that we must still be on strict preventive alert, because of the COVID-19 third wave that is sweeping across the globe."

The minister said as cases continue to rise in some African countries and health systems are getting stressed in many of them, the Nigerian health authorities have been preparing "to ensure system resilience."

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. Enditem

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