COVID-19: UK to support Nigeria in tracking COVID-19 variants

The UK government has announced that Nigeria will be one of the first countries that will receive genomic sequencing support through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) Programme launched earlier this year by Public Health England.

In a statement on Monday, Public Health England said other countries to benefit from the first phase of NVAP include Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya and Pakistan. The support for each country includes reagents and equipment to increase in-country sequencing, technical advice, bioinformatics support, and training.

According to U.K authorities, the target of the NVAP programme is to help countries identify, assess and track new variants of the novel coronavirus.

“The New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) Programme will provide support to countries such as Nigeria to accelerate the development of in-country capacity to effectively identify, assess and track new SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the statement said.

The Nigerian government on July 8 announced the first case of the dangerous Delta variant and since then there has been a marginal increase in the country’s infection tally.

The Delta variant has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the ‘most transmissible variant.’

According to the global body, the variant is responsible for the spike in about 104 countries across the world where it has been reported.

Also known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant has been linked to 90 per cent of the rise in Covid cases in the U.K.

According to the statement, Sam Agbo, a senior health adviser, British High Commission Abuja, said: ”This is a great development for Nigeria. This partnership will help expand Nigeria’s capacity and capability to identify and sequence variants, improve national preparedness planning, and increase active surveillance for emerging and re-emerging diseases. It will also enable Nigeria to become a genomic sequencing hub for West and Central African countries and provide regional technical support in the region.”

Britain is considered to be a world leader in genome sequencing. About a third of all Covid-19 sequences submitted to an international database come from the U.K.

ALSO READ: How new COVID variants have changed response to pandemic

British health officials said robust genomic surveillance was vital to identifying new variants of the novel coronavirus and then counter them.

“This initiative will support the effort of the African Pathogen Genomics Institute, which is already playing a leading role in supporting Member States to generate sequencing and identifying and tracking variants of concern. It will also further strengthen the Africa Pathogen Genomics Surveillance Network. We welcome this initiative”, said John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

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