Following The Advent Of Covid-19 Variants And Their Impacts In Nigeria

It is a busy day as always in one of the most popular markets in Lagos, with Lagosians shoving at each other as they hurry along to their destination. This is the enormous market known to locals as the Eko market or the Lagos Island market; the hub for anything from knockoff designer wears to Brazillian wigs to food items, you name it!

A little to my right is a popular hair shop that has bold instructions plastered to its walls: “No Mask No Entry”, it reads, but I can see people hurry in and out with no mask on, and the security guard stationed at the door armed with his hand sanitiser does not seem to mind.

Only a few people in Nigeria have taken the Covid-19 pandemic and its safety protocols seriously since its advent, despite the many variants recorded in the country. After the initial scare and the easing of total lockdowns, a vast majority of Nigeria’s unvaccinated population moved on to their daily business, with their masks underneath their chin or inside their bags, except of course on occasional trips to important places like a bank, an embassy or an upscale fancy restaurant.

Perhaps due to the seemingly low impact of the virus in Nigeria and the lack of trust in the country’s data gathering system, a majority of the country’s population are unaware of the various highly contagious variants that have arrived in the country and their impact on the country’s hospitalization rates and death rates.

Covid-19 variant discovered in Nigeria

According to data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of February 14 2021, there were about 55 different lineages of SARS-CoV-2 known to be circulating in Nigeria, all varying in transmission capacity.

Here are five major variants that drove the different waves of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

Alpha Variant ( B.1.1.7.)

First detected in the UK around December 2020, the Alpha variant made its first appearance in Nigeria as reported by the NCDC in January 2021, pushing Nigeria to reach the 100,000 confirmed cases milestone.

The total number of new cases was 43,732 in January alone, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 131,242, while the death toll rose to 1,586. 

Eta Variant (B.1.525)

The Eta variant was first detected from samples collected from a patient in Lagos on November 23, 2020, and by February 15, 2021, it had occurred in the highest frequency among samples in the country, with cases detected in five states.

Confirmed new cases in February was 24,415 new cases while total covid-19 cases moved from 131,918 on February 1, 2021, to 162,891 cases on March 31, 2021. Total deaths also moved from 1,613 in February 2021 to 1,939 in March 2021.

The Beta variant (B.1.351)

The Beta variant may have first been detected earlier in the year, but the NCDC recorded a massive upward trend in Covid-19 cases in August, recording 747 fresh cases in one day on August 4, 2021 – the highest in any single day.

 18,523 new cases were recorded in August, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 191,805 as of August 30, 2021, while the death toll rose to 2,469.

Delta Variant (B.1.617.2)

The variant was first recorded in Nigeria in July 2021, following genomic sequencing of a blood sample from a Nigerian traveller at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory in Abuja.

Identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization due to its enhanced transmissibility, the strain pushed up infection rates by more than 10% in July, compared to the previous month. There were 6,365 new cases in July, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 173,908, while death toll rose to 2,149.

Omicron Variant (B.1.1.529)

Nigeria recorded its first case of the Omicron variant around October 2021, leading up to subsequent months. In October, Nigeria recorded 6,182 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 211,961. The death toll rose to 2,896.

In November, Covid-19 cases began its downward trend with 2,257 cases in that month, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 214,218. 81 deaths were recorded in November, according to the NCDC.

In December, Nigeria experienced a surge in cases with 28,123 new infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 242,341. The death toll rose to 3,031.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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