The United Kingdom government has announced that Nigeria will be one of the first countries that will receive genomic sequencing support through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) Programme launched earlier this year by Public Health England.
According to a statement issued by the British High Commission in Abuja, the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) Programme will provide support to countries such as Nigeria to accelerate the development of in-country capacity to effectively identify, assess and track new SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has the capacity to change and evolve. It added that it is important to monitor these changes and assess any impact that they may have.
Speaking more on the programme, the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is a science superpower and it is right that we share our expertise in the global fight against COVID-19. I welcome this partnership with Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to identify, track and respond to new COVID-19 variants and future health threats globally. No one is safe until we are all safe.”
Also speaking Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, said “This initiative will support the effort of the African Pathogen Genomics Institute, which is already playing a leading role in supporting Member States to generate sequencing and identifying and tracking variants of concern. It will also further strengthen the Africa Pathogen Genomics Surveillance Network. We welcome this initiative.”
Senior Health Adviser, British High Commission Abuja, Dr. Sam Oboche Agbo, lauded the programme stressing that the partnership will help “expand Nigeria’s capacity and capability to identify and sequence variants, improve national preparedness planning, and increase active surveillance for emerging and re-emerging diseases.
It will also enable Nigeria become a genomic sequencing hub for West and Central African countries and provide regional technical support in the region.”
The new Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) Programme was developed by Public Health England in April and will be delivered by the new UK Health Security Agency. It will enable the UK’s unique sequencing and variant assessment capabilities to support Nigeria and other countries with their response to COVID-19. This will help to strengthen global health security and protect Nigerian and British people who are at home or abroad.
Other countries to benefit from the first phase of NVAP include Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya and Pakistan. The support for each country includes reagents and equipment to increase in-country sequencing, technical advice, bioinformatics support, and training.