Nigeria on Wednesday joined the growing number of countries that have recorded the first cases of the Omicron variant also known as B.1.1.529 lineage.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced this in a statement signed by the Director-General, Ifedayo Adetifa, on Wednesday morning. The disease centre said the two cases of the variant were discovered through “genomic sequencing.” It later clarified that three cases were confirmed and not two.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), three persons with history of travel to South Africa returned positive tests for the new covid-19 variant. The omicron variant has been detected in west Africa.
“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week,” the agency said in a statement. It had earlier said the positives were from samples collected in October but clarified that those were delta cases.
Ghana said it has also detected omicron cases from samples sequenced on Nov. 21,
. The country’s health service did not say how many cases, only that they were from Nigeria, and South Africa. That may raise questions as to when the variant first entered Nigeria.
South Africa, with 77 cases as of press time, has confirmed more omicron cases than any other country, with the UK, Botswana, the Netherlands, and Portugal each reporting more than 10 cases. But with Nigeria reporting cases, the variant is officially in one of the world’s most populous countries.
More cases to expect
As it has done since February 2020, the NCDC coordinates Nigeria’s covid-19 response in a centralized structure that relays guidance to health agencies in the 36 states of Nigeria. The agency says its view is that omicron is spreading rapidly globally and, as such, is preparing to identify more cases.
For travelers into and out of the country, the agency is restoring a mandate to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken 48 hours before departure. Before arriving in Nigeria, inbound travelers are required to book day two and day seven tests too. The three positive omicron cases were the result of day two tests, the agency said.
Canada Has Banned Travel from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt
Perhaps preempting Nigeria’s first omicron cases, Canada banned travel from Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt on November 30, 2021, expanding a ban that already included South Africa, and six southern African countries. Although none of the European countries where omicron has also been confirmed are currently on Canada’s blacklist.
The omicron variant has been found in 24 countries
The omicron coronavirus variant has been found in 24 countries, including the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Israel and the Netherlands. However, the World Health Organization says that although there’s still much to be learned about the new strain, there’s no indication that existing COVID-19 vaccines won’t continue to save lives.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Geneva, Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical lead in WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said scientists expect to know more soon about how quickly the new variant spreads and how severe it might be.
Van Kerkhove said she wanted reporters attending the news conference to make “crystal clear” that “there’s no indication to suggest that the vaccines won’t work even if there is a reduction in efficacy.”
“It’s still better to have the vaccine because it will save your life,” she said.
She cautioned that what continues to drive infections is “increasing social mixing in the context of the inappropriate use of public health and social measures. Not lockdown, but things like masking, hand hygiene, distancing, improving ventilation, etc.”
However, the current situation is a reminder for preventive measures including getting Health Insurance Policy.