OMICRON: Explosion fears spread as Nigerians in South Africa return for Christmas

By Chioma Obinna

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on Tuesday confirmed additional three more cases of COVID-19 with the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, the Omicron variant, in Nigeria.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant detected in Nigeria to six .

All the Omicron cases so far were detected in persons with recent travel history to South Africa in November.

In press statement made available to Journalists, the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said the NCDC through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) continues to coordinate genomic surveillance activities across the country to sequence all positive COVID-19 samples from international travellers arriving in Nigeria.

This includes sequencing of positive samples from international travellers from October 2021 to date. The Delta variant remains the dominant variant and so far, we have not seen the replacement of this variant by the new Omicron variant as observed elsewhere.

He explained that the Omicron variant is a source of global concern because of its increased risk of transmissibility and its potential to escape protective immune responses induced by natural infection and/or vaccination.

“Taken together, and if true, the Omicron variant can significantly change the current global COVID-19 epidemiology. There is currently no evidence of generalised or community transmission of this variant in Nigeria.”

He said the NCDC will continue coordinating and implementing genomic surveillance activities in- country to keep Nigerians reliably informed about existing variants, the Omicron and indeed other variants that may arise based on national data and emerging global evidence.

“In line with Article 44 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) reporting framework, he disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria through the NCDC has also been notified by the UK Government of seven cases of travellers from Nigeria with the Omicron variant.

Given the reports of increasing numbers of Omicron cases in the UK, he added that the NCDC is also prioritising the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples in travellers with history of travel to the UK.

“All viruses naturally mutate over time, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID- 19. Since SARS-CoV-2 was first identified, several mutations have occurred with the emergence of new lineages.

“This will continue to happen as long as the world does not act in concert to significantly reduce transmission through vaccination and adherence to effective public health measures such as mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and ensuring good ventilation.

He urged Nigerians to continue to take personal and collective responsibility to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.

He said:”Compliance with the travel protocols provided by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19) is mandatory for all international travellers arriving in Nigeria from any country. Incoming travellers should ensure their day 2 and day 7 tests are done as stipulated in Nigeria’s travel advisory.

“Otherwise, there will be consequences for defaulters which may include publication of their details, suspension of their passports and ban on travel to Nigeria by the PSC-COVID-19,” he stated.

He stated that the  revised travel protocol which came into effect on 5th December 2021 is available via – http://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/media/files/Revised_Travel_Protocol.

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