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Omicron variant: Nigeria ramps up surveillance

The Federal Government of Nigeria is ramping up surveillance of its airports and other points of entry through the Port Health Services to spot the B.1.1.529 lineage of variants named Omicron.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the tightened surveillance is done to ensure compliance with current travel guidance especially for the day 2 COVID-19 PCR testing while noting that the virus may be more infectious.

The centre in a statement on Sunday night signed by its director-general, Ifedayo Adetifa, said the variant has not been detected in the country but is spreading to other countries such as the UK, Israel, Hong-Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting, but, “no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet.”

The NCDC therefore also cautioned Nigerians to avoid travel to countries where there is a surge in COVID-19 cases of reported cases of the variant.

The NCDC said no case has been detected yet, but it is monitoring emerging evidence on the new variant and its implication, to further inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read also: Omicron variant: Emirates suspends flights to 3 southern African countries

It further noted that a total of 126 genomes of the 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 Variant of Concerns (VoCs), the statement read.

“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 (PCR) tests,” it said.

The NCDC further urged 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.

The centre called on Nigerians to get vaccinated and ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures against the virus.

“Therefore we appeal to business owners, religious leaders, and people in authority to take responsibility by ensuring people in their premises wear masks and adhere to physical distancing. We must do all we can to protect ourselves and our country,” the centre urged.

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