Ghana detects Omicron Covid-19 variant cases including one linked to Nigeria

Ghana’s health ministry detected the country’s first cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant on passengers who arrived at Accra international airport following sequencing carried out on November 21, the head of the Ghana Health Service said on Wednesday.

Officials have so far declined to specify how many positive cases were detected when the samples were sequenced on Nov. 21.

Health Service director general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said that the case originated from Nigeria and South Africa.

“The good thing is that among the community tests we’ve done so far, we haven’t seen any Omicron within the community of Ghana,” Kuma-Aboagye said during a vaccination awareness event on Wednesday.

“The danger is if someone has Omicron and is incubating, it would not be found at the airport, so we still have to be extremely careful,” he added.

Read Also: What to know as Nigeria detects COVID-19 Omicron variant

December is Ghana’s most important tourism month and officials expect an influx of visitors from countries that have already detected the new variant, Kuma-Aboagye said.

The new Omicron coronavirus variant – identified first in South Africa, but also detected in Europe and Asia – is raising concern worldwide given the number of mutations, which might help it spread or even evade antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.

News of the variant prompted countries to announce new travel restrictions on Friday and sent drug makers scrambling to see if their COVID-19 vaccines remain protective.

The World Health Organization last week classified the B.1.1.529 variant, or Omicron, as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern,” saying it may spread more quickly than other forms of coronavirus.

The Delta variant remains dominant worldwide, accounting for 99.9% of U.S. cases, and it is not yet clear whether Omicron will be able to displace Delta, said Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director, infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

But the new variant has over 30 mutations in the part of the virus that current vaccines target. It is also suspected of driving a spike in new infections in South Africa.

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