Another new variant of coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, but further investigation is needed, Africa’s leading public health official has said. It comes as a there has been a ‘sharp increase’ in people testing positive for Covid-19 in parts of UK
“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters.
He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will analyse more samples.
“Give us some time. It’s still very early,” he said.
The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.
The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the African continent.
The new variant in South Africa is the predominant one there, Mr Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach a 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 added.
Positive cases of Covid-19 are increasing sharply in parts of the UK, with around one in 60 people now testing positive in Wales and one in 85 in England, figures suggest.
An estimated 52,200 people in private households in Wales had Covid-19 between December 12 and 18, according to the latest infection survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the highest estimate for Wales since the survey began in the summer, and is up from 33,400 people for December 6 to 12 – the equivalent of a jump from around one in 90 people testing positive to around one in 60.
The rate has also continued to rise in England, where an estimated 645,800 people in private households had Covid-19 between December 12 and 18, up from 567,300 people in December 6 to 12.
This is the equivalent of a jump from one in 95 to one in 85 people.
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
In regions of England, the rate has “continued to increase sharply” in London, eastern England and south-east England, the ONS said.
London now has the highest rate of people testing positive, with an estimated 2.1% of people in private households testing positive for Covid-19.
This is followed by south-east England (1.4%) and eastern England (1.2%).
The percentage testing positive in south-west England has also increased during the most recent week, while rates have continued to decrease in north-west England and Yorkshire & the Humber.