The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged African countries to boost genomic surveillance and analysis through the African genome sequencing laboratory network to detect any new mutations of the Covid-19 variants.

Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda have reported the highest number of new cases, accounting for 90 percent of all the infections in Africa.

South Africa recently detected a new Covid-19 variant, which appears to transmit more easily and is likely linked to the ongoing surge of Covid-19 infections in the country.

Nigeria is also carrying out more investigations on a variant identified in samples collected in August and October, according to the WHO.

‘The emergence of new Covid-19 variants is common. However, those with higher speed of transmission or potentially increased pathogenicity are very concerning’, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said.

‘Crucial investigations are underway to comprehensively understand the behaviour of the new mutant virus and steer response accordingly’.

The WHO and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had in September launched a network of 12 laboratories in Africa to reinforce genome sequencing of the Covid-19.

As of 23 December, 4,948 sequences had been produced in Africa, representing just two percent of the 295,101 sequences done so far worldwide.

South Africa, which has carried out most of the 4948 sequences, identified 35 Covid-19  lineages, while Nigeria identified 18, according to a WHO statement.

Moeti said public health measures such as handwashing, physical distancing and wearing of masks remained key to limiting the spread of the virus.

Source: WHO

Photo source: NCDC

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