• Wed. Jan 25th, 2023

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“Omicron Variant of Covid 19, now in Africa, we are working to shield Nigeria’ – NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), the national public health institute with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection, and response to public health emergencies has released some scary updates regarding the Omicron- new variant of Covid 19 virus uncovered couple of weeks ago in China.

In a Press Statement signed and issued by the Executive Director, NCDC on Saturday stated how fast the virus is spreading across the world including South African region. And how measures are being put in place contain this potential pandemic in Nigeria.

According to the statement, “we continue to monitor global COVID-19 epidemiology including genomics data as part of the ongoing pandemic response.

“The NCDC-led COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is monitoring COVID-19 trends in China, the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, India, and other countries with a high volume of traffic to and from Nigeria. This includes the resurgence of COVID-19 in China following the relaxation of the country’s zero-COVID policy, as well as significantly increased COVID-19 cases, admissions, and deaths in the UK and the USA over the past weeks driven in part by the usual winter exacerbations of respiratory illnesses.

“Before the recent case increase in China, the USA, the UK and other countries, genomic surveillance has shown that the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and its lineages continue to dominate in recorded infections worldwide. However, the rise in the new Omicron sub-lineages XBB.1.5 in the UK and the US, and BF.7 in China raises concern as it may spread faster than older Omicron sub-lineages (e.g., XBB or BQ) and that they are responsible in part for current increases in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. However, the sub-lineage seen with cases in China, B.5.2.1 and BF.7 are responsible for the surge in China and does not appear to be increasing unusually in other countries” statements says.

The NCDC in its efforts has continued to strengthen genomic surveillance of the COVID-19 virus in Nigeria. Since the detection of the Omicron variant in December 2021, its sub-lineage (BQ.1/BQ.1.1) has been dominant in Nigeria. None of these dominant sub-lineages in Nigeria that are also circulating elsewhere has been associated with any increases in case numbers, admissions, or deaths locally. The sub-lineages partly
responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in other countries i.e., XBB.1.5 and BF.7 have not yet been detected in the country but B.5.2.1 has been seen here since July 2022 and the others are most likely here already. BF.7 and XBB have also been circulating in South Africa since October 2022 but without any accompanying increase in cases, severe illness, or deaths.

“Regardless of COVID19 variants in different parts of the world, severe disease, admissions and deaths disproportionately affect the unvaccinated and those with established risk factors i.e., older people, people with co-morbidities and the immunocompromised.

“The most important action for Nigerians to take is to get vaccinated against COVID19, as the vaccine is the most important intervention for preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death. Though the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions have been eased, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to continue to adhere to the recommended non pharmaceutical intervention (NPIs) such as the use of face masks, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of crowded spaces.” says the statement.

COVID19 has and continues to follow a different epidemiological course in Nigeria and most of Africa.

Other Omicron sub-lineages that were associated with increases in cases, admissions and deaths elsewhere did not cause the same in Nigeria as confirmed by our genomics surveillance. This is because the population is significantly protected from a combination of natural immunity and vaccination with vaccines with a high impact on hospitalisation, and deaths. In hindsight, country-targeted travel restrictions including requests for PCR-negative tests from incoming travellers had little or no effect on preventing global and national circulation of omicron since the emergence of this variant and its relatives with their shorter incubation period.

The NCDC will continue to pay close attention to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in other countries and
gather additional surveillance data to inform actions. We are reviewing the situation again this week. At this next review and if deemed necessary, a range of actions, not limited to enhanced surveillance of travellers at airports, may be decided on and implemented.

Muyiwa

Muyiwa is an information management expert and Development Blogger. He is passionate about human angle stories to all social issues in Nigeria and Africa.