Omicron Variant: Travel ban looms over Nigeria-linked cases

Omicron Variant: Travel ban looms over Nigeria-linked cases

Nigeria risk travel bans with Canada’s detection of Omicron variant of COVID-19 in two travellers from Nigeria.

Medical experts including the Chairman of the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH. He said that the variant of the virus in Nigeria was detected in Canada.

Tomori reproached the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for its failure to coordinate genomic sequencing of samples of coronavirus obtained from laboratories across the country.

According to him, although there were laboratories, which could do the genomic sequencing of coronavirus in Nigeria, the NCDC had been bypassing them and taking samples to South Africa.

“In Nigeria, we have more than one laboratory available for genomic sequencing. The problem we are facing is poor leadership from the NCDC. They have failed to coordinate and collaborate and also organise a national network for effective sequencing in Nigeria. Recall that I mentioned that a foreign laboratory will intimate us of the presence of the Omicron variant.

“Some of our laboratories now send test samples outside Nigeria for genomic sequencing when the best thing to do is to coordinate and collaborate.

“Six months ago, our committee sent a proposal to the government on the issue of genomics sequencing. We told them to organise a national network of genomics sequencing, and put NCDC as the coordinator. But what happened? They refused. The NCDC said they were the only ones who are charged with sequencing because the NCDC has control of the laboratories.

“They stopped sending samples to the other five genomic laboratories, but they will send to South Africa. This takes a lot of time but it is not just about the time, but the disgrace and absence of national pride, especially when you have similar facilities in your country,” Tomori said.

When asked if the country might risk a travel ban, he said, “Why not? if it does not come with the cases identified from Nigeria, I will be shocked.

A professor of medical virology at the University of Maiduguri, Marycelin Baba in a separate interview agreed with Tomori.

“Nigeria definitely risks travel bans. The government of Indonesia banned us even before the announcement of the variant by the Canadian government. The announcement could only mean one thing and that is the fact that the variant is already in our midst, she said.

“It is however a thing of shame that we were notified of the presence of the virus by a foreign government and the NCDC is still saying we do not have the variant yet. At this point, all we can advocate is speedy vaccination. We do not know if the variant is deadly or not but at least let people get vaccinated”.

Genomic sequencing is a laboratory method that is used to determine the entire genetic makeup of a specific organism or cell type and changes in areas of the genome.

The Canadian government announced that it detected cases of the omicron variant from two travellers from Nigeria.

The newly discovered strain of the Covid-19 was first reported by the government of South Africa and later by other Southern African countries including Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Malawi.

Other countries including the United Kingdom, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, and Hong Kong have also reported the detection of the new variant in those countries.




Source: The Punch

Author: Greg