The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has said, the COVID-19 Omicron sublineages partly responsible for the increase in COVID-19 cases in China, the United States, and the United Kingdom had not been detected in the country.
NCDC Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa in a statement issued on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 stated that the Omicron sublineage responsible for the rise in cases in the US and UK was XBB.1.5 while BF.7 was responsible for the increased cases in China.
Adetifa said that the NCDC led COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre was monitoring COVID-19 trends in China, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, and other countries with a high volume of traffic to and from Nigeria.
He added that this included the resurgence of COVID-19 in China following the relaxation of the country’s zero-COVID policy, as well as significantly increased COVID-19 cases, admissions, and deaths in the UK and the USA over the past weeks driven in part by the usual winter exacerbations of respiratory illnesses.
The NCDC Helmsman noted that, before the recent case increase in China, the USA, the UK, and other countries, genomic surveillance had shown that the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and its lineages continue to dominate in recorded infections worldwide.
He further disclosed that the rise in the new Omicron sub-lineages XBB.1.5 in the UK and the US, and BF.7 in China raises concern as it may spread faster than older Omicron sub-lineages (e.g., XBB or BQ) and that they were responsible in part for current increases in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.
However, the sub-lineage seen with cases in China, B.5.2.1, and BF.7 are responsible for the surge in China and do not appear to be increasing unusually in other countries.
In response, he assured that his agency would continue to strengthen genomic surveillance of the Covid-19 virus in the country:
“The NCDC continues to strengthen genomic surveillance of the COVID-19 virus in Nigeria. Since the detection of the Omicron variant in December 2021, its sublineage (BQ.1/BQ.1.1) has been dominant in Nigeria. None of these dominant sublineages in Nigeria that are also circulating elsewhere has been associated with any increases in case numbers, admissions, or deaths locally.
“The sub-lineages partly responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in other countries i.e., XBB.1.5 and BF.7 have not yet been detected in the country but B.5.2.1 has been seen here since July 2022 and the others are most likely here already. BF.7 and XBB have also been circulating in South Africa since October 2022 but without any accompanying increase in cases, severeillness, ordeaths.
“Regardless of COVID-19 variants in different parts of the world, severe disease, admissions, and deaths disproportionately affect the unvaccinated and those with established risk factors i.e., older people, people with comorbidities, and the immunocompromised”, Adetifa said.