1 December 2021 | Abuja – NCDC Confirms First Case of Omicron Variant in Nigeria
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) conducts case and genomic surveillance for inbound international travelers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja and network of other testing laboratories. Sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travelers is currently conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country and all the sequencing data are shared in publicly accessible databases.
This genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travelers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with history of travel to South Africa. These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week. Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations.
The NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant. Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases. We continue to expand our sequencing capacity in-country at the NCDC-NRL, through our network of public health laboratories and other partners. Our focus is to complete sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travelers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already.
Since reports of the emergence of this Omicron variant, the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC has intensified public health response measures to COVID-19 in Nigeria. The national travel advisory has also been revised by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and now requires all inbound travelers to Nigeria present a negative COVID-19 test result done not more than 48hrs before departure. Pre-booking and payment for all day 2 and day 7 COVID-19 PCR tests are prerequisites for travel. In addition, all outbound passengers regardless of the requirements of destination countries are expected to present evidence of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not later than 48 hours before departure. We appeal to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols and other public safety measures to protect themselves, families, friends, the community at large and to prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country as we combat the pandemic and these emerging variants including the Delta variant.
Recommendations for States
Given the risk of increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, it is essential to curb community transmission. The NCDC recommends that States ensure sample collection and testing remain widely accessible, so that people who have symptoms or have been exposed to a positive case get tested quickly in healthcare and other settings. This can be achieved through increased COVID-19 testing using approved antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that are being rolled out by the NCDC and partners as well as PCR-tests where applicable. Vaccination also reduces community transmission and States should effectively implement ongoing mass vaccination campaigns and encourage citizens to make use of every available opportunity to get vaccination.
Recommendations for the public
Continued transmission as seen in largely unvaccinated populations from which this new variant has emerged also encourages the emergence of newer and possibly more dangerous variants. Interrupting transmission of the virus remains our best defense against this virus and path to returning to normalcy. We can only achieve this through vaccination and adherence to the proven safety measures such as wearing face masks, regular hand washing and physical distancing. We appeal to business owners, religious leaders, and people in authority to take responsibility by ensuring people in their premises adhere to these measures. We strongly urge Nigerians to only share information from trusted sources including NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health. Our safety as a country depends on our collective responsibility.
About the NCDC
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission for the NCDC (2017-2021) is ‘To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a One Health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce’.
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Dr Ifedayo Adetifa
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control