The Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is monitoring emerging evidence on the new Omicron variant and its implication.
In a statement, the agency said it would carry Nigerians along in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The organisation said while the 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.
It, however, said 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 statement said.
NCDC said given the high number of mutations present in the Omicron variant and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases observed in South Africa, the virus is considered highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other Variant of Concern (VOCs).
However, it said the fears about its ability to evade protective immune responses and/or its being vaccine resistant are only theoretical so far.
“This virus can still be detected with existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. The WHO and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics.
“The NCDC continues to ensure daily review of surveillance data and uses this to inform public health decision making.”
NCDC urged all states to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible, so that travellers, people with symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 cases get tested promptly.
The NCDC also urged Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place, which are enforceable by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19), through the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021.
“We are collectively responsible for our own health security including playing our part to reduce the risk of the importation or spread of the Omicron variant in Nigeria,” NCDC said in the statement.