By Our Health Desk
The total number of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 confirmed in Nigeria is now three, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Wednesday.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, who confirmed this in a statement explained that the agency had conducted case and genomic surveillance for inbound international travellers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Abuja, and a network of other testing laboratories.
He stated that sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travellers was conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country while all the sequencing data were shared in publicly accessible databases.
“This genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant,” the NCDC boss said. “Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a history of travel to South Africa. These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week.
“Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations.”
According to him, the NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting the variant.
Adetifa gave an assurance that the NCDC would continue to expand its sequencing capacity in-country through a network of public health laboratories and other partners.
The focus for the agency, he stated, was to complete sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travellers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already.
The NCDC chief revealed that since reports of the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Federal Ministry of Health, through the NCDC, has intensified public health response measures to COVID-19.
He added that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has revised the national travel advisory, which included a negative COVID-19 test result done not more than 48 hours before departure by all inbound travellers to Nigeria.
“Pre-booking and payment for all day 2 and day 7 COVID-19 PCR tests are prerequisites for travel. In addition, all outbound passengers regardless of the requirements of destination countries are expected to present evidence of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not later than 48 hours before departure.
“We appeal to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols and other public safety measures to protect themselves, families, friends, the community at large and to prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country as we combat the pandemic and these emerging variants, including the Delta variant,” Adetifa pleaded.