The Nigeria Public Health Institute said Wednesday it identified the option in three travelers who arrived from South Africa last week, its CEO, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said in a statement.
The institute, the Center for Disease Control of Nigeria, said earlier Wednesday that it also found a variant of Omicron in a sample taken in October, but then withdrew the announcement. The earlier sample belonged to the Delta variant, according to a WhatsApp post by institute spokesman Emeka Oguanuo.
Referring to the three Omicron cases, Dr. Adetifa said in a statement, “Follow-up has begun to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other appropriate responses.”
Nigeria – the third country in mainland Africa – apart from South Africa and Botswana – to report this option, which is now known to have spread to all continents except Antarctica. But scientists say it may be weeks before more is known about how contagious the variant is, the severity of the disease it causes, and how existing vaccines offer protection against it.
Nonetheless, governments have responded with dismay and markets have dropped in recent days as WHO assessed the global risk associated with this option as “very high”.
Nigeria’s health officials on Wednesday called on state governments to make testing available, vaccinate many more people, and ensure public health adherence to public health measures, including camouflage and social distancing. To date, Nigeria has recorded 214,113 positive cases and 2,976 coronavirus deaths.
Just over 9.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million, according to the World Health Organization. Federal government employees are expected to either be vaccinated or show negative Covid-19 certification starting Wednesday. Travelers in the country are expected to arrive with a negative Covid test and two more tests on the second and seventh days after arrival.