… Says 39 new cases discovered
… WHO warns that blanket booster shots could fuel emergence of new variants
By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, weekend confirmed community transmission of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the country even as the Centre disclosed that Nigeria has not recorded any death from the variant.
On its part, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned that blanket Covid vaccine booster programmes, amid vaccine inequities in poor countries, could lead to the emergence of more mutant variants and perpetuate the pandemic.
Disclosing the development weekend during a webinar on the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said additional 39 cases of the Omicron variant and been discovered bringing the total to 45.
Noting that the Omicron had pushed up the number of cases of coronavirus in the country, Adetifa said the variant is gradually becoming dominant.
He explained that the 39 additional detected cases were in people without travel history; rather they were in the country, which suggested that the country was already experiencing community transmission.
“The six earlier detected Omicron cases were detected in persons with recent travel history to South Africa. It is important for Nigerians to maintain physical distance and avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
“We are counting on you to celebrate responsibly and take responsibility to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from COVID-19,” he maintained.
Further, Adetifa urged that the measures to curb the spread of Omicron included reducing group sizes, increasing physical distancing, reducing the duration of contacts and closing high-risk premises.
He noted that indoor mixing was the “biggest risk factor” for the spread of Omicron and that large gatherings risked creating “multiple spreading events”.
The Incident Manager, NCDC, Mrs Luka Lawal, said so far, the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific and Africa are currently experiencing another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that in Africa specifically we are experiencing the fourth wave.”
Lawal said, “Paramount in our mind, in our heart and activities is that early detection and confirmation of cases have increased sequencing activities.
“At our POEs, lab capacity built in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are presently also putting up testing sites for rapid diagnostic testing,” she remarked.
Meanwhile, the WHO has criticised what it described as blanket Covid vaccine booster programmes, as poor countries are struggleing to obtain initial immunisation shots, warning that vaccine inequality could lead to the emergence of more mutant variants.
The Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who gave the warning said the unequal access to immunizations could lead to more mutated variants that drag out the crisis.
“Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” he stated.