The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it was analysing outbound and inbound travellers from countries with confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
NCDC’s Director-General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this at the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) briefing on COVID-19 on Monday in Abuja.
Adetifa noted that the agency would continue to sequence positive samples from the cases and ensure quick communication with the public.
“The NCDC will continue to work with the Federal Ministry of Health Ports of Entry team to ensure that inbound and outbound travellers are tested and compliant with protocol.
“Towards the Christmas period, please do avoid all non-essential travel and take the precautions, which will, indeed, save even just one life.
“Your life is important and so are our loved ones and strangers,” he said.
Adetifa said most Nigerians would be thinking of the new variant and the potential impact it would have on travel, holiday plans and the national response till date.
He reiterated the need for public health and social measures in the country, adding that COVID-19 was real and harmful.
Adetifa said in spite of the high recovery rate, COVID-19 had caused painful and needless loss of lives, particularly among the elderly and more vulnerable.
He said its worldwide spread and ongoing devastation, resulting in full Intensive Care Units in some countries; case surges, reintroduction of lockdowns and more, was indication enough that it was not business as usual.
According to him, Nigerians must reemphasise the priority of wearing face masks.
“I know there is pandemic fatigue.
“It has been very long, over 20 months since the declaration of the pandemic, and this can cause fatigue to anyone.
“I commend Nigerians for bearing the pandemic as they have done, and continuing to make ends meet and continue life with hope amid hardships.
“However, I also acknowledge that we can and must do much better with adherence to public health and social measures,” he said.
Adetifa said the reason why a face mask was worn was to protect oneself from the potential air droplets that might be transmitted from person to person when speaking, singing etc.
He said sometimes it was difficult to tell when someone was infected as the virus could, at times, be present without symptoms.
“For hand hygiene, proof of its importance reaches as far back as Ignac Semmelweis, who is considered the Father of hygiene.
“High maternal mortality was reversed through his observational studies.
“These studies revealed that unwashed hands of doctors who had done autopsies on cadavers and then proceeded to deliver children of mothers in labour were responsible for high mortality rate.
“This was over two centuries ago.
“We now have even more advanced scientific knowledge to detect viruses which can be transmitted through improper hand hygiene,” he said.
The director-general said, those privileged who had the means, should make sure they used clean water and soap to stay safe.
“Please, please, do use this simple means of keeping your health intact.
“When you frequently touch surfaces, shake others people’s hands, etc, do wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water is unavailable,” he said.
Adetifa encouraged Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers, look out for those without access to clean water, soap and hand sanitisers, educate and where possible, support them with needed supplies.
Regarding large gatherings without social measures, he warned that those must stop as they pose a huge risk to the lives of loved ones with co-morbidities, older loved ones, strangers whose complications they were unaware of and of course, the gains the country had made so far in the pandemic.
Adetifa added that the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the year were, indeed, valid.
He noted that the COVID-19 vaccines were available.
“We will not fail to let you know that they are safe and effective and that they do reduce the risk of severe disease and eventual death.
“Where you find out that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please do safely, ensure that you are tested.
“We will continue to ensure that laboratories are sustained, available for testing and conveniently accessed,” he said.
The News Agency Of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Omicron variant was first identified from testing done on Nov. 9 in Botswana on travellers from West Africa.
It was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on identification of cases among a cluster of young unvaccinated people in South Africa on Nov. 24.
While this variant has so far not been detected in Nigeria, a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong-Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting.
However, no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet.
A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID. (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).
The SARS-CoV-2 variant has now been designated a variant of concern (VOC) and named; Omicron by the WHO, as advised by the independent Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution