Virologists in Nigeria have called on The Federal Government to ban travels from South Africa, others due to the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa.
According to Prof Marycelin Baba, amongst the renowned virologists were the Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof Oyewale Tomori; ex-National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Prof Tanimola Akande; and a Professor of Medical Virology at the University of Maiduguri.
They warned that tardiness on the part of the government could make the nation slip into the fourth wave of COVID-19, especially as the Christmas and New Year festivities approach.
The World Health Organisation had on Friday declared the new COVID-19 strain first discovered in South Africa to be a variant of concern and renamed it Omicron.
The classification puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
The UN health agency in a statement stated that;
“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology… the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, named Omicron,”
Nations including Britain, the United States and the European Union have banned flights from Southern African to slow the spread of Omicron, even as the South African government said it was being punished over what it described as a false alarm.
The WHO said it could take several weeks to complete studies of Omicron to see if there are any changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.
Omicron is about the fifth variant of COVID-19 discovered and named since the outbreak of the pandemic about two years ago.
The variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Wednesday. The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9. In recent weeks, infections in South Africa have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection.
Th WHO said;
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,”
“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.”
Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a person coming from Malawi; Botswana; Belgium and Hong Kong.