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ADC Presidential Candidate, Kachikwu, Tested Positive For COVID-19
… As New Variant Raises Concerns Globally
Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Presidential Candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), has disclosed that he had tested positive for the Corona Virus.
He has therefore called on Nigerians to be vigilant as the dreaded COVID-19 makes comeback.
Kachikwu gave this warning in a statement made available to THISDAY in Abuja yesterday
He said that he was isolating himself and had cancelled all public events till he received a negative report.
He called on Nigerians not to take the Corona Virus for granted as infection rates have risen rapidly all over the world in the last few weeks.
He said, “Nigerians must not let their guard down even though the Government has relaxed COVID rules.
“Our public health system can’t cope with the fallout of huge infection rates with attendant symptoms, especially at a time when our health care professionals are leaving the country in droves.
“We must increase testing and take all necessary precautions not to spread the virus.
“We must not allow political rallies to become COVID spreaders and reverse the gains made in combating the virus. We will survive the Corona Virus if we all remain vigilant.”
Kachikwu did not confirm whether he was a victim of the new variant of the epidemic or the recently discovered one.
However, the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant known as XBB.1.5 as reported by the World Health Organisation on January 8 had raised fresh concerns over what could become a potentially deadly new wave of the pandemic.
The new variant is coming three years after the novel coronavirus emerged.
The new variant, according to the WHO, is quickly becoming the dominant strain in parts of the United States because of a potent mix of mutations that makes it easier to spread broadly, including among those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.
It has been nicknamed the “Kraken variant”, because of its ability to spread rapidly.
Reports indicated that the new variant is reputed to be the most transmissible sub-variant detected so far.
The World Health Organisation, WHO had also announced an increase in cases of an Omicron sub-variant across numerous countries.
According to the WHO, the XBB.1.5 variant had already been identified in at least 30 countries including China and South Africa and is now dominant in the United States of America.
However, in a statement last week, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, assured that there was no need to panic over the ‘Kraken’ Covid-19 variant.
The Agency said it was monitoring the situation and would announce findings as they developed.
According to the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the variant, initially detected in October 2022, was a recombinant of two BA2 sub-lineages detected especially across Europe and the US.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the XBB and XBB.1.5 sub-variants accounted for 44.1 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the US in the week of December 31, up from 25.9 per cent the previous week.
He said that the WHO was following developments closely and assessing the risk of the sub-variant.
Dubbed “The Kraken”, the new Covid XBB.1.5 variant has been recorded in the UK.
This Omicron sub-variant has been driving up cases in the US, with experts saying it’s the one to watch.
The Kraken is currently thought to trigger symptoms similar to previous Omicron strains.
Health experts and scientists, according to reports, are now monitoring the new sub-variant to determine whether it gives dominance to certain symptoms.
The symptoms of XBB.1.5 according to experts, are different from those caused by other Omicron sub-variants.
The WHO had clarified that the Kraken variant is a descendant of the omicron XBB subvariant — which is a cross between two earlier strains: BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1.
It is said to be accounting for just 1 per cent of all Covid cases at the start of December, the WHO had warned that it could surge and spread to become the dominant strain in places.
The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that although clinical care management, vaccines, and treatments have put COVID infections on the decline, the threat persists.
“Major inequalities in access to testing, treatment, and vaccination continue. Every week, approximately 10,000 people die of COVID-19. The true toll is likely much higher.
“The current COVID-19 epidemiological picture is troubling. There is intense transmission and pressure on health systems, particularly in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, and a recombinant sub-variant spreading quickly.”
In the views of WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove,” XBB.1.5 is “the most transmissible sub-variant which has been detected yet.”
Although WHO assured that the proportion of infections caused by XBB.1.5 has remained low, it cautioned that the picture may rapidly change.
Scientists say that the sub-variant has a much stronger affinity to ACE2, a key receptor for the virus, which allows it to bind more easily and boosts its transmissibility.
The new virus, the experts insisted, is largely attracting attention because it is exhibiting signs of immunity escape, meaning that it can evade natural immunity or previous protection provided by vaccines, and can re-infect people that have recovered from earlier bouts of Covid.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said that even though the Kraken sub-variant had not been detected in Nigeria, the country was alert.
He said the NCDC-led COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is 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.
Adetifa noted 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 and that they are responsible in part for current increases in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.
According to him, the dominant strain in Nigeria since the detection of the Omicron variant in December 2021, is its sub-lineage BQ.1/BQ.1.1.
“None of these dominant sub-lineages 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.
According to Adetifa, “The most important action for Nigerians to take is to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as the vaccine is the most important intervention for preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death.
“Though the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions have been eased, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to continue to adhere to the recommended non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPIs) such as the use of face masks, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of crowded spaces.
Nigeria is currently witnessing relatively low immunization rates for COVID-19. Only a fraction of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.