The country’s National Institute of Public Health said on Wednesday that Nigeria has detected its first case of Omicron coronavirus disease in a sample collected in October.
It is the first West African country to record the Omicron variant since it was detected and reported by scientists in southern Africa and joins the list of nearly 20 countries that have triggered travel restrictions around the world.
Genomic sequencing of positive cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria identified two cases of the Omicron variant among travelers from South Africa, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control said in a statement issued by its Director-General.
Two unidentified travelers arrived in the West African country last week, but cases have also been confirmed in Nigeria prior to their arrival.
“Retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travelers to Nigeria also identified the Omicron variant among samples collected in October 2021,” said Dr. Efedayo Edetifa said.
Much is unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health officials have suspected, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can cause vaccines to fail. could.
The Nigeria CDC urged the country’s states and the general public to remain vigilant and called for better testing amid concerns that Nigeria’s low testing capacity could become its biggest challenge facing the new version.
Virus testing is low in many states and even in the country’s capital, Abuja. For example, in parts of Kuze, a suburb of Abuja, Musa Ahmed, a public health official, told The Associated Press that no one had been tested for the virus for weeks.
The detection of the Omicron variant in Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people coincides with Nigeria’s new requirement that all federal government employees be vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test done in the past 72 hours. Results should be presented.
With the vaccine mandate taking effect on Wednesday, there were chaotic scenes in several offices in the nation’s capital as civil servants without vaccination cards or negative PCR tests were turned back by security agents.
Many workers and security agents were not wearing face masks.
“Governments should invest in promoting vaccine safety, efficacy, and the broader public health security implications of spoiled vaccines,” said Edwunmi Emoruwa, principal strategist at Gatefield, an Abuja-based consultancy. “If public servants are confident about these issues, they are naturally more effective advocates for their constituents.”
Across Nigeria, news of the Omicron edition – which the World Health Organization has warned of “very high” risk – has sparked concerns and renewed fears over the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the airport in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and economic hub, officials insisted that passengers wear their face masks at counters, although the airport complex and many others violating health protocols in the city did not pay much attention. are given.
Nigeria – with 214,218 confirmed infections, including nearly 3,000 deaths – has updated its travel advisory, ordering incoming international travelers to undergo a PCR test 48 hours before resuming travel to the country and two more tests, Two days after arrival and seven days after. Incoming international arrivals will also have to be quarantined for seven days.
Amid global concern over the Omicron version, the Director General of Nigeria CDC told reporters that the country is on alert in the face of the emerging crisis.
“We are working very hard to increase the ongoing surveillance, especially for incoming passengers, and also trying to do testing (including) at land borders,” he said.
After the emergence of the Omicron version many countries moved to ban travel, especially from southern African countries. But the move has been widely condemned by many, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is currently in Nigeria on a two-day visit.