Two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced on Wednesday.
In a statement released and signed by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, the NCDC said the two cases of the variant were discovered through genomic sequencing.
The centre added that the cases were linked to two passengers who entered Nigeria from South Africa last week.
The statement reads: “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) conducts case and genomic surveillance for inbound international travellers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja and network of other testing laboratories.
“Sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travellers is currently conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country and all the sequencing data are shared in publicly accessible databases.
“This genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a history of travel to South Africa.
“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week. Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify the country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations.
“The NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant. Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases.
“We continue to expand our sequencing capacity in-country at the NCDC-NRL, through our network of public health laboratories and other partners. Our focus is to complete 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 reports of the emergence of this Omicron variant, the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC has intensified public health response measures to COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“The national travel advisory has also been revised by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and now requires all inbound travellers to Nigeria present a negative COVID-19 test result done not more than 48hrs before departure. Pre-booking and payment for all day 2 and day 7 COVID-19 PCR tests are prerequisites for travel.
“In addition, all outbound passengers regardless of the requirements of destination countries are expected to present evidence of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not later than 48 hours before departure.
“We appeal to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols and other public safety measures to protect themselves, families, friends, the community at large and to prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country as we combat the pandemic and these emerging variants including the Delta variant.
“Given the risk of increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, it is essential to curb community transmission. The NCDC recommends that States ensure sample collection and testing remain widely accessible so that people who have symptoms or have been exposed to a positive case get tested quickly in healthcare and other settings.
“This can be achieved through increased COVID-19 testing using approved antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that are being rolled out by the NCDC and partners as well as PCR-tests where applicable.
“Vaccination also reduces community transmission and States should effectively implement ongoing mass vaccination campaigns and encourage citizens to make use of every available opportunity to get the vaccination.
“Continued transmission as seen in largely unvaccinated populations from which this new variant has emerged also encourages the emergence of newer and possibly more dangerous variants. Interrupting transmission of the virus remains our best defense against this virus and path to returning to normalcy.
“We can only achieve this through vaccination and adherence to the proven safety measures such as wearing face masks, regular hand washing and physical distancing.
“We appeal to business owners, religious leaders, and people in authority to take responsibility by ensuring people in their premises adhere to these measures.
“We strongly urge Nigerians to only share information from trusted sources including NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health. Our safety as a country depends on our collective responsibility.”
Naija News reports that the new Omicron variant also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage was first detected in Botswana and reported by South Africa.
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