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Virologist advises FG to keep close eye on Indian passengers over deadly COVID-19 strain


B.1.617 India COVID-19 double Agent FG Tomori

A prominent virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has advised the Nigerian government to closely monitor flights from India to prevent the transportation of a deadly COVID-19 strain from the country to Nigeria.

Infection rate and deaths have spiked in India lately with the country’s health system struggling to control the second wave of COVID-19 in recent weeks.

India recorded the highest one-day tally of new Covid-19 cases anywhere in the world (314,835) and the country’s highest number of deaths over 24 hours (2,104) on April 22, according to the BBC.

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The Punch reported that of the multiple new variants, tearing through India, one is named the “double mutant” which is officially known as B.1.617.

With growing concerns and fears of importation of the virus into Nigeria after its index case came from Italy last February, Tomori, in an interview with The Punch on Monday, called for close monitoring of airlines that convey passengers indirectly from India to Nigeria.

The former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University said: “We don’t have direct flights from India but there are people that come in through other cities. I know that Ethiopian Airlines goes to India and they bring passengers from India through Addis Ababa to Nigeria. So, with the problem in India, I think it will be good to monitor people coming from there.

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“You must be proactive to study the routes through which people come from India. We should have an idea of the main route through which people come from India and other information. You cannot just place a ban. So, we need home-grown information on the airlines they use and the number that usually come in.

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“The Presidential Steering Committee must look into this. We need proper targeting.”

Speaking on what states need to do, Tomori added that they need to do more testing than what they send to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, on a daily basis.

“Some states are testing only one sample in a week. Sometimes only five to eight states send their information to the NCDC. This is why some believe the infection is dropping when in actual fact we are not doing enough testing.”