The Federal Government through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has confirmed that three South African returnees have tested positive to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, becoming the country’s first cases under the fourth wave.
It said that they were discovered after series of tests conducted at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja, and a network of other testing laboratories on samples received from inbound international travelers at the ports in the past week.
The new cases were confirmed on Wednesday through a statement released by the NCDC Director-General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, saying they were discovered through genomic surveillance.
NCDC disclosed that the agency has contacted the South African Government and has also commenced contact tracing of the cases to prevent further spread of the virus in the country.
According to the agency, Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant. Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases.
The agency assured Nigerians that it would continue to expand sequencing capacity in-country at the NCDC-NRL through its network of public health laboratories and other partners across Nigeria.
It hinted that the agency’s focus was to complete sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travelers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already.
Part of the statement reads: “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) conducts case and genomic surveillance for inbound international travelers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja, and a network of other testing laboratories.
“Sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travelers is currently conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country and all the sequencing data are shared in publicly accessible databases.
“This genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travelers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a history of travel to South Africa. These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week.
“Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify the country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations”.