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Nigeria records two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

Two cases of the new COVID-19 variant called Omicron have been confirmed in Nigeria.

WITHIN NIGERIA learnt that the Omicron variant was identified in two travellers from South Africa last week through genomic sequencing of positive samples by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Recall that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had labelled the new variant a Variant of Concern (VOC) after it was seen to be more transmissible with increased risk of re-infection.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, urged States to ensure strict compliance with preventive measures while ramping up sample collection and testing, especially with approved Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT).

He also urged Nigerians to get vaccinated and adhere to the proven safety measures such as wearing face masks, regular hand washing and (or) sanitising with alcohol based sanitisers, and physical distancing.

He said: “In line with the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) through its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja —confirmed Nigeria’s first case of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage.

“Genomic sequencing of positive cases from routine day two test for all travelers to Nigeria identified two cases of Omicron variant among travelers from South Africa who arrived in Nigeria in the last week.

“Retrospective sequencing of the previously confirmed cases among travellers to Nigeria also identified the Omicron variant among the sample collected in October 2021.

“The two recent cases though asymptomatic have been linked to clinical care and other response activities which include contact tracing have commenced. Arrangements have been made to notify their country of origin to commence in-country response.

“According to preliminary findings in countries where this variant was earlier detected, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from other variants. However, it may be more transmissible. There is still a lot to learn about this variant, and we continue to be guided by scientific evidence.

“The NCDC assumes this variant is widespread globally with possible community transmission ongoing in Nigeria. Our focus remains to prioritise the genomic sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travellers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already.

“Since the emergence of the Omicron variant in some parts of the world, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) through NCDC with the guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has intensified public health response measures to COVID-19 in Nigeria based on the assessment of the risk of spread of the virus.

“This includes the review of the national travel protocols by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19) has announced that travellers to Nigeria now must present a negative COVID-19 test result within 48hrs before boarding. We appeal to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols to prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country as we combat the pandemic and these emerging variants including the Delta variant.”

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