The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern of the coronavirus infection – B.1.1.529 lineage, which has been named Omicron, has so far not been detected in the country.
The disease centre, however, warned Nigerians against losing guards, advising people to avoid visiting countries where cases have been reported including South Africa, Botswana, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
In a statement issued on Sunday night and signed by the director-general, Ifedayo Adetifa, the disease centre said it is monitoring emerging evidence alongside the federal ministry of health on the new variant and its implication “to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The statement reads in part; “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.”
While the disease centre noted that no death has, however, been reportedly linked to the new variant, it confirmed its high mutations and transmissibilities, noting that a total of 126 genomes of the variant has been identified so far.
“Given the high number of mutations present in this 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 variants of concern (VOCs).
“However, the fears about its 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 an understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics.”
The disease centre urges Nigerians to, apart from observing all non-pharmaceutical protocols against the pandemic, get vaccinated as prompt as possible.
NCDC said; “Adhere to public health and social measures that have been proven to help prevent SARS-COV-2 infection regardless of the circulating variant. These include wearing face masks, especially in crowded settings, washing hands regularly, physical distancing from others where possible during good ventilation, avoid travel to countries where there is a surge in COVID-19 cases or reported cases of the Omicron variant, and avoid all non-essential travel both local and international.
“If you must travel, please adhere to travel protocols instituted by the PSC-COVID-19 which are in place to prevent the risk of importation of the virus or its variants to Nigeria.”
Mr Adetifa further appealed to business owners, religious leaders and people in authority “to take responsibility by ensuring people in their premises wear masks and adhere to physical distancing.”
“We must do all we can to protect ourselves and our country,” the centre said.