Following the statement by the Canadian government that said it has detected from two Nigerian travelers the new COVID-19 variant, the NCDC in a statement on Sunday, through Ifedayo Adetifa, its director-general, said the federal ministry of health (FMOH) and the NCDC are aware of reports of a new COVID-19 variant and are monitoring emerging evidence on this new variant and its implication, to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,“ the statement reads.
“Given the high number of mutations present in the 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.”
He, however, said the fears about the variant’s 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. The WHO and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics,” he said.
Adetifa said the agency will continue to ensure daily review of surveillance data for public health decision making, and he appealed to all states to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible.Advertisement
He said the NCDC, through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), will continue to coordinate genomic surveillance and other activities required for the detection of variants.
“In collaboration with Port Health Services of the FMOH, enhanced surveillance is ongoing at the airports and points of entry, and to ensure compliance with current travel guidance, especially for the day 2 COVID-19 PCR testing,” he said.
“Should there be any changes to travel guidance, this will be communicated in due course.
“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 (PSC-COVID-19), through the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021.”
The index case of Omicron was detected in South Africa on Tuesday, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) subsequently designated Omicron as a “variant of concern”, calling on global leaders to take action to contain its spread.