The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed, yesterday, that the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has been detected in the cause of its genomic surveillance for inbound international travelers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja and network of other testing laboratories.
Its Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, in a statement, explained that samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for travelers to Nigeria were positive for the variant in three persons with history of travel to South Africa.
However, he said from a technical perspective, a travel ban would not be recommended because it is not driven by science.
“We are currently the subject of travel ban ourselves for reason that are not driven by science and as we know, recent information from the Netherlands showed cases of these variants before the South Africans did. A travel ban is not the way to go at the moment, what we need is enhanced surveillance, vigilance and for our population to adhere to recommended safety measures. At the last count, over 22 countries have reported this variant, so where would the banning end if you start?
“Twenty four hours before, we said with great confidence that there were no Omicron variant in the country, which was correct because we depended on the state of results at the time. Surveillance is an ongoing activity and we continue to generate results from the laboratory on a daily basis. The update was correct at the time the press release was issued and we would not be surprised if we find more cases as we continue to sequence all of the samples that continue to accrue. This is reflective of the situation worldwide because the number of countries that are importing this variants continue to increase.
“In terms of the measures that we have in place, we will continue to enhance surveillance as is recommended at this time and we had to conduct a risk based assessment of transmission. We have to look at travelers and ensure they abide by the travel advisory. We have made the day two tests compulsory for everyone regardless of the status of vaccination. We are not focusing on Southern African countries, we are giving attention to all travelers coming into the country. Most cases with this variant are mild and we have not recorded any fatalities.”
This came as Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa called for the reversal of travel restrictions placed on African countries over fears of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
He said the discriminatory restrictions would have long-lasting effects on the economies of the affected countries.
The United Kingdom, European Union and the United States are among those that have imposed a travel ban on South Africa and its neighbouring countries due to fears of Omicron. The Canadian government has also banned travellers from Nigeria and nine other African countries.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government made good its threat, yesterday, as civil servants and the general public without proof of vaccination and negative PCR tests were denied access in government buildings in Abuja.
In October, the Federal Government had mandated civil servants to get vaccinated.
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), had said workers who failed to get vaccinated would be barred from entering their places of work from December 1.
Some civil servants who spoke with Daily Sun expressed worries over the compulsory vaccination since it does not stop one from contracting the the virus while others pleaded for more time to enable them do the needful.
Florence Adam, who works with one of the government offices around Area 11, confirmed she and others who had not taken the vaccine were not allowed into office.
“I never knew they were serious about it. I know we have failed on our own part because we deliberately refused to take the vaccine because they were all over. I even met some of them at my junction, yesterday, but refused to be vaccinated. I just want to plead with the Federal Government to give us more grace by extending the date and also increase the sensitisation because most people are being misinformed, especially by religious leaders.”
Another civil servant, Alice Age, said COVID-19 vaccination was not supposed to be made compulsory.
“Though, I have taken it, I’m still not convinced that there is anything thing like COVID-19. There is enough tension in the land. They should stop putting more on the poor masses.”
Friday Adanu pleaded with the government to extend the deadline.
“I came all the way from my state to submit a document in the federal secretariat but was denied access I have not taken my vaccine. It is very painful because the transport was even borrowed. I know it is not the government’s fault but I’m pleading with them to extend the deadline so that I can complete my mission in Abuja and go back and do the needful.”
The Federal Government, yesterday, raised the alarm that lack of vaccination by developing countries would provide a fertile ground for COVID-19 to mutate and threaten the progress already recorded even in developed countries.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, issued the warning in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
He spoke against the background of the latest mutation (Omicron) of COVID-19, which has triggered a wave of travel bans on some countries in Africa. – The Sun.