The Nigeria Center for Disease Control has stated that there are no cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus in the country and the body with the Federal Ministry of Health are monitoring the situation of the virus.
This was contained in a statement signed by the NCDC Director-General, Ifedayo Adetifa, on Monday, stating that the variant was first identified after tests were carried out on travellers returning from West Africa.
NCDC also noted that the rate of the spread of the Omicron variant makes it highly transmittable but added that, so far, claims that it is resistant to vaccines are not proven.
The statement reads in part, “The FMOH and NCDC is monitoring emerging evidence on this new variant and its implication, to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The variant was first identified from testing done on 9th November 2021 in Botswana on travellers from West Africa. It was reported to WHO on the identification of cases among a cluster of young unvaccinated people in South Africa on 24 November 2021.
“While this variant has so far NOT been detected in Nigeria, a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting. However, no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet. A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID, (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).
“Given the high number of mutations present in this Omicron variant and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases observed in South Africa, this virus is considered highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other VOCs.
“However, the fears about its ability to evade protective immune responses and/or its being vaccine-resistant are only theoretical so far. This virus can still be detected with existing Polymerase Chain Reaction tests. The WHO and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain an understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics.”
The NCDC urged states to ensure that sample collection and testing are made easily available for travellers who might have symptoms to get tested quickly.
It also urged Nigerians to strictly adhere to all public health guidelines to prevent a spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“The NCDC continues to ensure daily review of surveillance data and uses this to inform public health decision making. Therefore, we urge all States to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible, so that travellers, people with symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 cases get tested promptly.
“Considering the highly likely increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its emergence that is linked to unmitigated community transmission of the virus, the NCDC urges Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place, which are enforceable by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, through the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021,” the statement added.