December 30th, local time, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa issued a message calling on African countries to strengthen genome monitoring and analysis through the network of genome sequencing laboratories to detect virus mutations and curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Regarding the variants of the novel coronavirus, the WHO Regional Office for Africa said that the recently discovered mutant virus in South Africa seems to be more likely to spread, and the continuous surge in the country’s infection cases is likely to be related.
Further analysis is being carried out in the South African health sector to determine the full epidemiological significance of mutations. Nigeria has conducted more investigations into a variant found in samples collected in August and October this year.
Moti, director of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, said that it is normal to have COVID-19 variants, but high attention should be paid to those that have higher transmission rates or lead to increased potential pathogenicity.
In September this year, WHO and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a network of 12 laboratories in Africa to strengthen the sequencing of the genome of COVID-19. As of December 23, 4,948 sequences had been produced in the African region, accounting for only 2% of the 29,5,101 sequences completed so far worldwide.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa is providing technical guidance and mobilizing additional financial support to accelerate genome sequencing in most countries in the region and to facilitate the delivery of samples from countries without specialized diagnostic tools to regional reference laboratories.
Moti, director of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, also warned that wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands frequently are also effective in preventing COVID-19 variants.