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FG says new COVID-19 variant, ‘Omicron’ not in Nigeria, issues travel advisory

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Sunday stated that the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is not in the country.

It stated that, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, it is monitoring emerging evidence on the new variant and its implication to inform the country’s response to the pandemic.

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Urging Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place, the NCDC 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.

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A statement by the NCDC reads: “The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are aware of reports of a new COVID-19 variant — the B.1.1.529 lineage. This SARS-CoV-2 variant has now been designated a variant of concern (VOC) and named; Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as advised by the independent Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).

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“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. A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID, (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).

“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 VOCs.

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“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 understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics.

“The NCDC continues to ensure daily review of surveillance data and uses this to inform public health decision making. Therefore, we urge all States to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible, so that travellers, people with symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 cases get tested promptly.”

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