Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
2 minute read
1 Dec 2021
10:37 am

Omicron latest: Nigeria confirms first cases, from SA-originating travellers

Cheryl Kahla

Nigeria's public health authorities said the new Omicron variant was identified in samples from passengers travelling from South Africa.

A passenger reads a safety measure requirement at the departure terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, in Abuja, Nigeria. Picture: AFP/Kola Sulaimon

Nigeria’s public health authorities on Wednesday said the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, had been identified in samples from passengers travelling from South Africa.

The heavily mutating Omicron variant – also known as B.1.1.529 – was classified as a variant of concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 27 November,

Omicron in Nigeria

Covid-19 and vaccination stats

Nigeria’s official Covid-19 caseload is 214,113 and it has claimed some 2,976 lives. However, the real figures are believed to be much higher.

Both testing and vaccination rates remain low and just over 6.5 million people have received their first vaccine shot; only 3.5 million people are fully vaccinated.

The head of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control, Ifedayo Adetifa, said in a statement that the travellers are in isolation, and contact tracing will now commence.

‘Matter of when, not if’

Adetifa said Omicron was widespread globally, “therefore, it is a matter of when not if, we will identify more cases” in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

Nigeria, home to around 210 million people, requires all civil servants to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter public buildings. 

When the emergence of Omicron was first confirmed, Nigeria reinforced some of its travel measures and imposed additional tests while observing non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Nigeria’s stringent Covid-19 measures

The Nigerian guidelines for incoming travellers are focused on detecting Covid-19 with PCR tests within 72 hours, before travel and on the second day of arrival.

Executive secretary of Nigerian Academy of Science, Doyin Odubanjo, said unvaccinated passengers also need to isolated for seven days and do additional PCR tests at the end of the isolation period.

“Travellers are expected to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. It is good if it is implemented efficiently,” Odubanjo added.

Omicron in South Africa

Earlier this week, South African epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim said there was no cause for concern at this stage but cautioned against allowing unvaccinated people at indoor events.

Karim said the biggest challenge would be to curb super-spreader events, and one way to achieve that would be to reduce the risk of transmission, especially indoors.

Since vaccinated people were less likely to contract severe Covid-19, he suggested “restricting risky indoor events to vaccinated-only people”.

NOW READ: Omicron: Keep unvaccinated people out of events, says Karim