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Nigeria confirms three Omicron cases in passengers from South Africa

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in the country.

Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa
Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

This is contained in a press release issued by the centre and signed by the Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, in Abuja.

The new variant has sparked global concerns due to fears it may spread faster and be resistant to vaccines.

Following its discovery in South Africa, Omicron was first detected in Europe in Belgium on Nov. 27, 2021.

Other European countries, including Germany, Italy and the U.K., have confirmed cases. Australia also reported cases on Nov 28, 2021.  

The European Union on Nov. 27, 2021, moved to ban travel from seven Southern African countries.

Other nations, including the U.S. and U.K., are adopting similar moves. Israel late Saturday went further, imposing a two week travel band for all non-residents.

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Similarly, the government of Canada had also stated that it discovered two cases of the variant from two passengers from Nigeria.

The Federal Government, through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, however, said that it was investigating the issue to get more details.

Adetifa, however, on Wednesday morning said two cases of the variant were discovered through genomic sequencing.

It albeit linked the cases to two passengers from South Africa.

“In line with the routine travel tests required of all international travellers, genomic sequencing at the NCDC through its National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, confirms Nigeria’s first case of the Omicron variant.

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“Genomic sequencing of positive cases from routine day-two testing for travellers to Nigeria identified two cases of Omicron variant among travellers from South Africa who arrived in Nigeria past weeks.

“Retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travellers to Nigeria also identified the Omicron variant among samples collected in the past weeks 2021,” he explained.

He added that the three patients were asymptomatic and contact tracing had began.

Genomic sequencing analyses the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and compares it with other cases.

By the time the virus arrived in Nigeria, the different changes, or mutations, of COVID-19 “define branches on a tree”.

Each branch of COVID-19 that exists in Nigeria could be linked back to the South Africa, China, UK in the original instance, as well as via an outbreak in a foreign country.

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The new variant is coming at a time Nigerians have let down non-pharmaceutical measures like face and nose masking, hand washing and social distancing.

It is also coming at a time when aside border surveillance, Nigeria seems to have developed cold feet in her in-country responses like surveillance and community testing.

With the lull in these activities, the new variant may have had its way into Nigerian communities already and so the need to spring back to action has just been reiterated especially now that the festive season is here.

By Abujah Racheal

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