The Director General, NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, revealed this in an interview with the Nigerian News Agency , on Sunday in Abuja.
reports that the variant was first identified from tests conducted on November 9, 2021 in Botswana on travelers from West Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed about the identification of cases among a group of unvaccinated youth in South Africa on November 24, 2021.
While this variant has NOT been detected so far in Nigeria, several cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and many more countries. However, no deaths have yet been attributed to this new variant.
A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published in GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data.
The SARS-CoV-2 variant has now been designated as a variant of concern (VOC) and has been named Omicron, as advised by the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Technical Advisory Group (TAG-VE) .
WHO has also urged countries to improve their virus surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating variants.
Adetifa said that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and the NCDC are aware of reports of a new variant of COVID-19: the B.1.1.529 lineage.
“The FMOH and the NCDC are monitoring emerging evidence on this new variant and its implication, to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given the high number of mutations present in the Omicron variant and the exponential increase 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 added.
However, he said fears about the variant’s ability to evade protective immune responses and / or its resistance to vaccines were only theoretical until now.
“This virus can still be detected with existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. WHO and researchers around the world are working rapidly to understand the possible impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapies, ”he added.
The NCDC chief added that the agency would continue to ensure the daily review of surveillance data and use it to inform public health decision-making.
Therefore, he urged all states to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible, so that travelers, people with symptoms, or those who have been exposed to COVID-19 cases are tested immediately.
It revealed that the NCDC, through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), would continue to coordinate genomic surveillance and other activities necessary for the detection of variants.
He assumed that a global spread of this variant had occurred and is prioritizing sequencing recently accumulated samples from SARS-COV-2 positive travelers from all countries, especially those from countries that have already reported the Omicron variant.
“In collaboration with the FMOH Port Health Services, enhanced surveillance is being carried out at airports and points of entry, and to ensure compliance with current travel guidelines, especially for COVID-19 PCR testing of the Day 2.
“If there are any changes to the travel guide, this will be communicated in due course.
“Given the very likely increase in the transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its emergence that is linked to outright community transmission of the virus, the NCDC urges Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures tested in vigor, which are executable. COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19), through the Health Protection Regulation COVID-19 2021.
“We are collectively responsible for our own health security, including our role in reducing the risk of importing or spreading the Omicron variant in Nigeria,” he advised.
Adetifa implored Nigerians to do the following: “Make the most of the opportunities currently available to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Adhere to public health and social measures that have been shown to help prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of the circulating variant. These include:
Wear face masks, especially in crowded settings.
Wash your hands regularly.
Physical distancing, that is, maintaining a distance of two meters from others when possible.
Ensuring good ventilation.
Avoid traveling to countries where there is an increase in COVID-19 cases or reported cases of the Omicron variant.
Avoid all non-essential travel both local and international. If you must travel, adhere to established travel protocols to avoid the risk of importing the virus or its variants into Nigeria.
“The virus is more likely to spread where people gather and do not adhere to these measures. That is why we call on businessmen, religious leaders and people with authority to assume responsibility in their premises, wear masks and adhere to physical distancing ”, he advised.
According to him, we must do everything possible to protect ourselves and our country.
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