By Asmau Ahmad
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said its analysing out inbound travellers from countries with confirmed cases with the Omicron variant.
The Director General, NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this at the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19
national briefing on Monday in Abuja.
While the Omicron variant has so far not been detected in Nigeria, a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong-Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting. However, no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet.
A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID, (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).
The SARS-CoV-2 variant has now been designated a variant of concern (VOC) and named; Omicron by the WHO, as advised by the independent Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).
Adetifa noted that the agency was and would continue to sequence positive samples from these cases and ensure quick communication with the public concerning this.
“The NCDC will continue to work with the Federal Ministry of Health Ports of Entry team to ensure that inbound and outbound travellers are tested and compliant with protocol.
“Towards the Christmas period, please do avoid all non-essential travel and take the precautions which will indeed safe even just one life. Your life is important and so are our loved ones and strangers,” he advised.
According to him, most of Nigerians thoughts are probably fixated on the new variant and the potential impact it will have on travel, holiday plans and the good national response we have had till date.
He reiterated the need for public health and social measures in the country.
“Unlike many Nigerians think, COVID-19 is real and it is harmful. Despite a high recovery rate as indicative by the numbers mentioned earlier, this disease has caused the painful and needless loss of lives particularly the elderly and more vulnerable, being those with co-morbidities.
Dr Adetifa added that its worldwide spread and ongoing devastation resulting in full Intensive Care Units in some countries, case surges, reintroductions of lockdowns and more was indication enough that it was not business and usual.
According to the DG, we must reemphasise the priority that wearing facemasks is. I know there is pandemic fatigue. It has been a very long over 20 months since the declaration of the pandemic and this can cause fatigue to anyone.
He commended Nigerians for bearing the pandemic as they have done, and continuing to make ends meet and continue life with hope amid hardships.
“However, I also acknowledge that we can and must do much better with adherence to public health and social measures.
The reason why a facemask is worn is to protect oneself from the potential air droplets that may be transmitted from person to person when speaking, singing etc – which we must note that we cannot tell when someone is infected as the virus can at times be present without causing symptoms.
“For hand hygiene, proof of its importance reaches as far back as Ignac Semmelweis, who is considered the Father of hygiene. High maternal mortality was reversed through his observational studies.
These studies revealed that unwashed hands of doctors who had done autopsies on cadavers and then proceeded to deliver children of mothers in labour were responsible for this.
“This was over two centuries ago. We now have even more advanced scientific knowledge to detect viruses which can be transmitted through improper hand hygiene and for those privileged to, we have the means to make sure we use clean water and soap to stay safe. Please, please, do use this simple means of keeping your health intact.
“When you touch frequently touched surfaces, shake others hands, etc, do wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if this water is unavailable,” he explained.
The DG NCDC encouraged Nigerians to be their brothers’ keeper look out for those without access to clean water and soap and hand sanitisers. Educate and where possible, support them with needed supplies.
Regarding large gatherings without social measures, he warned that these must stop as they pose a huge risk to the lives of loved ones with co-morbidities, older loved ones, strangers whose complications they were unaware of and of course, the gains the Country have made so far in the pandemic.
He added that the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 20211, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in this year were indeed valid and they do apply.
Adetifa noted that the COVID-19 vaccines were available.
“We will not fail to let you know that they are safe and effective and that they do reduce the risk of severe disease and eventual death.
“Where you find out that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please do safely, ensure that you are tested.
“We will continue to ensure that laboratories are sustained, available for testing and conveniently accessed,” he urged.