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02.12.2021 news 5 Things to Know About Omicron, the Latest Covid-19 Variant in Nigeria

Published 2nd Dec, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

On Wednesday, the first two cases of Omicron Covid-19 variant were confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Abuja.

In a press statement signed by Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director-General of the centre, it was stated the variant was discovered during a routine test carried out on two international travellers who arrived Nigeria from South Africa last week.

Amidst concerns that it could be more deadly than other variants, and trigger another lockdown phase in Nigeria, here is what we know so far.

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DISCOVERED IN SOUTH AFRICA

Since the first case of the variant was discovered in South Africa on November 24, a whole lot of heated exchanges have been witnessed between countries and health organisations, with Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, expressing his disappointment in the decision of several countries to impose a travel ban on air passengers travelling from South Africa.

Ramaphosa’s criticism also got the backing of the World Health Organisation (WHO) through Matshidiso Moeti, the organisation’s regional director for Africa, who advised countries to follow science and international health regulations, rather than implement stricter measures like travel bans.

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FOUND IN ABUJA

Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, said as far as he knew, the only cases recorded in Nigeria so far were discovered in Abuja.

“We have not recorded any case of Omicron variant in Lagos, so, I can’t speak about what is happening in Abuja,” Abayomi said, in an interview with FIJ.

NO ONE KNOWS HOW DEADLY

When asked whether the Omicron variant is more lethal than the Delta variant, Abayomi said nobody in the world has the information at the moment.

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“Because the variant has just been discovered, we need to first of all observe patients that have tested positive to it. We also need to do some laboratory investigations to see whether the antibodies that are generated by vaccination will still neutralise the new variant,” the commissioner said.

He also said that there is a lot of scientific research and observation that will have to be carried out before its characteristics can be determined.

NOT A NEW VIRUS

The commissioner said he is confident that existing vaccines are potent enough to combat the new variant.

“The vaccines have the potency to combat Omicron. It is not a new virus; it is just a variation of an existing virus. I am sure the vaccines will still be effective in taking care of the virus. What we, however, do not know at the moment is whether the potency of the vaccines would drop from 70 to 65 percent efficiency rate,” he told FIJ.

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Abayomi also said only laboratory science and research will provide more answers on the new variant in the coming days.

ANOTHER LOCKDOWN LOOMING?

On whether the emergence of the new variant could force Nigeria into another lockdown, Abayomi said the option is not on the table of considerations at the moment.

“Since the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, we have published guidelines that have helped in curbing the spread of the virus. With the emergence of this new variant, we are going to review and see whether modifications need to be made to the already existing rules,” the health commissioner said.

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Abayomi also said his ministry is putting strict measures in place to significantly minimise the opportunity for anybody that has already tested positive to either the Omicron or Delta variant to travel to Lagos.

“On whether there is a possibility of restrictions being placed on interstate travels, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 would have to sit and make that decision,” said Abayomi.

Published 2nd Dec, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

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