COVID-19: Nigeria Confirms Three More Cases Of Omicron Variant

A medical official performs a throat swab on a resident of Mabushi in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory Abuja as part of the community testing for COVID-19… on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV
A file photo of a medical official performing a throat swab on a resident of Mabushi in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory Abuja as part of the community testing for COVID-19. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed three more cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19.

This was disclosed in a statement on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant detected in Nigeria to six.

Three cases had earlier been announced on December 1.

According to the statement, all the Omicron cases so far were detected in persons with recent travel history to South Africa in November.

“The NCDC through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) continues to coordinate genomic surveillance activities across the country to sequence all positive COVID-19 samples from international travellers arriving in Nigeria,” the statement read.

“This includes sequencing of positive samples from international travellers from October 2021 to date. The Delta variant remains the dominant variant and so far, we have not seen the replacement of this variant by the new Omicron variant as observed elsewhere.

“The Omicron variant is a source of global concern because of its increased risk of transmissibility and its potential to escape protective immune responses induced by natural infection and/or vaccination.

“Taken together, and if true, the Omicron variant can significantly change the current global COVID-19 epidemiology. There is currently no evidence of generalised or community transmission of this variant in Nigeria. However, the NCDC will continue coordinating and implementing genomic surveillance activities in-country to keep Nigerians reliably informed about existing variants, the Omicron and indeed other variants that may arise based on national data and emerging global evidence”.

In line with Article 44 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) reporting framework, the Federal Government through the NCDC says it has also been notified by the UK Government of seven cases of travellers from Nigeria with the Omicron variant.

Consequently, the NCDC said with the increasing number of Omicron cases in the UK, it is now prioritising the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples in travellers with a history of travel to the UK.

“All viruses naturally mutate over time, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Since SARS-CoV-2 was first identified, several mutations have occurred with the emergence of new lineages.

“This will continue to happen as long as the world does not act in concert to significantly reduce transmission through vaccination and adherence to effective public health measures such as mask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and ensuring good ventilation,” the statement read.

The NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health, therefore, urged members of the public to continue to take personal and collective responsibility to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.

It also reiterated that compliance with the travel protocols provided by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19) is mandatory for all international travellers arriving in Nigeria from any country.

According to the agency, all incoming travellers should ensure their Day 2 and Day 7 tests are done as stipulated in Nigeria’s travel advisory “otherwise, there will be consequences for defaulters which may include publication of their details, suspension of their passports and ban on travel to Nigeria by the PSC-COVID-19”.

Omicron: Senate, Reps Condemn UK Govt’s Red Listing Of Nigeria

A file photo of the National Assembly complex in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

 

The Senate has condemned in strong terms the U.K Government’s inclusion of Nigeria in its COVID-19 red list.

In a motion, Senator Ike Ekweremadu at plenary on Tuesday, said the decision by the British Government to include Nigeria in the list, with its concomitant implications, will affect many citizens of Nigeria, who had planned to spend their Christmas and New Year holiday with their families.

He further stated that it is worrying that Nigerians who have a genuine need to visit the U.K within this period will be denied a Visa and those with one will not be allowed to enter the U.K.

Senator Ekweremadu also noted that targeting African countries especially in the COVID-19 travel ban amounts to profiling and discrimination as well as an attack on Nigeria’s cordial diplomatic relationship with the U.K.

The Senate, consequently, asked the Federal Government to constructively engage the British authorities with a view to reversing this inclusion.

The Upper Chamber also called on the British authorities to consider removing Nigeria from the COVID-19 red list and to be sensitive to the diplomatic relationship between the two countries in taking decisions that affect Nigerian citizens.


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Meanwhile, the House of Representatives through a motion of urgent public importance by the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to interface with the UK government to reverse the decision of the ban.

The House is worried that the decision of the UK will affect Nigerian students in the UK who may be unable to return for the yuletide celebration.

The committees on health and foreign affairs have been mandated to interface with the PSC on the best way to resolve the matter.

The move has since received widespread criticism with many calling on the UK to rescind its decision.

President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, is one of those who condemned the incident, describing it as “very unfair, non-scientific, and discriminatory”.

“Lift bans on African countries!” Adesina said in a statement on Monday.

“Global vaccines’ and travel apartheid against Africa are endangering lives, hurting economies, lives, jobs and livelihoods, from a pandemic Africa did not cause. End the apartheid. Respect Africa!”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also condemned the decision, describing it as unjust and discriminatory.

Giving a different view of the development, a Professor of Virology, Oyewale Tomori, said the COVID-19 pandemic and other disease outbreaks in Nigeria are nothing compared to the real enemies of the country.

“Our underdevelopment and backwardness rest on four pillars – they are the real enemies of our nation,” Tomori said.

“They are (1) lack of patriotism – the destroyer of our nation; (2) self-interest – the burial ground of our national interest; (3) corruption – the executor of our underdevelopment, and (4) shamelessness – the destruction of our national pride.”

UK Removes 47 Countries From COVID-19 Travel ‘Red List’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the exhibition hall to try means of green transportation on the third day of the annual Conservative Party Conference. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

The UK government on Thursday announced a dramatic reduction to its coronavirus travel “red list”, scrapping bans on foreigners travelling to England from 47 countries.

Under the new rules that come into effect from 0300 GMT on Monday October 11, only seven countries — Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela — will remain under the restrictions.

Removal from the “red list” for the 47 countries and territories, including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, means passengers will no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the move was possible because of “the increased vaccination efforts around the globe”.

The government also announced it was extending inbound vaccinated arrivals to a further 37 countries and territories including India and Turkey.

READ ALSO: UK Relaxes Rules For Fully Vaccinated Travellers From Nigeria

The new rules mean fully vaccinated individuals entering England from the 37 locations will be exempt from quarantine, a pre-departure test and a day-eight post-arrival test.

British and Irish nationals and those living in the UK are allowed to travel from red list countries, but must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days on arrival.

The UK government in London sets health and transport policy for England only. The devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set the Covid travel policies for their regions.

They have largely followed previous rule changes for England.

AFP