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Omicron variant: Ban travels from South Africa, other folks, virologists inform FG

Renowned virologists in Nigeria have called on the Federal Govt to be swift in its emergency response to the not long ago-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, 1st detected in South Africa.

The virologists which includes the Chairman, Specialist Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof Oyewale Tomori ex-National Chairman of the Affiliation of Community Health Medical professionals of Nigeria, Prof Tanimola Akande and a Professor of Clinical Virology at the College of Maiduguri, Prof Marycelin Baba, designed this recognized in separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH.

They warned that tardiness on the component of the government could make the country slip into the fourth wave of COVID-19, specifically as the Xmas and New Year festivities method.

This is as the Secretary to the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammed, informed Sunday PUNCH that the Federal Govt would keep an eye on tendencies right before taking vital conclusions, like the probable imposition of flight ban on southern African countries.

The Globe Wellbeing Organisation had on Friday declared the new COVID-19 strain initial identified in South Africa to be a variant of problem and renamed it Omicron.

The classification places Omicron into the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, alongside with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

“Based on the proof introduced indicative of a detrimental modify in Covid-19 epidemiology… the WHO has specified B.1.1.529 as a variant of problem, named Omicron,” the UN health and fitness agency had claimed in a statement.

Nations including Britain, the United States and the European Union have banned flights from Southern African to sluggish the distribute of Omicron, even as the South African govt mentioned it was staying punished over what it explained as a bogus alarm.

Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos
Murtala Muhammad Intercontinental Airport, Lagos

The WHO reported it could get many months to full research of Omicron to see if there are any variations in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, exams and solutions.

Omicron is about the fifth variant of COVID-19 discovered and named because the outbreak of the pandemic about two several years back.

The variant was 1st reported to the WHO from South Africa on Wednesday. The initially known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.  In latest weeks, bacterial infections in South Africa have improved steeply, coinciding with the detection.

“This variant has a substantial number of mutations, some of which are regarding,” the WHO claimed, pointing to worrying qualities.

“Preliminary proof indicates an improved chance of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.”

It stated the number of Omicron conditions appeared to be raising in almost all provinces of South Africa.

Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a individual coming from Malawi Botswana Belgium and Hong Kong.

Nigeria has recorded about four COVID-19 strains with above 213,000 circumstances and about 3,000 linked fatalities given that the index circumstance of deadly virus in the place past calendar year February.

In June 2021, the Federal Govt extra travellers from South Africa to the record of countries banned from flying into Nigeria due to the Delta COVID-19 variant which unfold fast in the country.

Nigeria’s initially described situation of COVID-19 was in February 2020 when an Italian male who travelled from Milan to Lagos via the Murtala Muhammed Intercontinental Airport came down with the virus.

Several critics had slammed the Federal Govt for becoming tardy in shutting down the four worldwide airports while other countries had been closing theirs to forestall the incursion of the fatal virus.

Requested no matter if the federal government would comply with the traits by Europe and the British isles among some others by banning flights from significant-possibility locations like South Africa to prevent the Omicron variant from spreading into the country, the Secretary to the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammed, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH,  reported the Federal Federal government would keep track of developments right before taking necessary choices.

Requested whether Nigeria would place southern African international locations on purple warn, the formal said, “We shall continue to observe the scenario globally and take required steps appropriately.”

But Tomori faulted the delay which in accordance to him may well guide to “disaster.”

Tomori explained, “Given our porous border and no cost for all badly guarded details of entry, in addition uncoordinated genetic sequencing follow, efficient surveillance backed by laboratory help places South Africa way in advance of us.

Prof. Oyewale Tomori

“Given our condition of overall performance, it will almost certainly choose months following the new variant circumstance has arrived in Nigeria ahead of we detect it. By then, it would have spread all over the nation so why should really we not put them on inform?

“At this issue, we will need to keep the PSC on, as extended as COVID is on, increase and improve genetic sequencing, get our details of entry up and doing  and not a stage of escape of variants into Nigeria, strengthen get hold of tracing, exam folks on arrival and do an efficient and helpful make contact with tracing and adhere to up.”

On her component, Baba mentioned, “If it is demonstrated scientifically that the current vaccines have no outcome on the new pressure, then the needful should be carried out, suspend travels to South Africa.

“This is not the time for the hold off as delays could be hazardous. We definitely need to have to act on time, other nations around the world are previously generating moves.

“Also, emphasis ought to be produced to be certain that all Nigerians are vaccinated. The vaccines protected in opposition to the former strains. Nonetheless note that as the virus moves from a single host to a further within just a nation or in between countries, it will mutate foremost to new strains. Additional strains are certain to arise but the result of the vaccines on the strains scientifically  decides panic or relaxed.”

Also, Akande, who urged the government and its crisis administration teams like the Nigeria Centre for Illness Regulate, to buckle down, stated they ought to master from the classes of the past.

He explained, “Every state will be apprehensive and will like to avert as a great deal as achievable importation of the new Omicron variant. Federal Government currently has guidelines and recommendations on vacation restrictions and the problem of well being safety.

“I am absolutely sure NCDC and other relevant stakeholders will shortly come up with directives on this just after weighing the professionals and drawbacks of travel bans. In having decisions lessons learnt from past measures notably vacation will give good assistance.

“Measures taken by countries like United kingdom, Italy and other European nations are place-distinct. These nations around the world are previously battling with a weighty stress of the 4th COVID-19 wave. I, hence, feel these countries are using positions that are to their individual fascination.”

He also said the new Southern African variant would “herald and most probably worsen the imminent fourth wave,” incorporating that “containment measures in schools, religious centres amongst some others were not truly stopped but enforcement degree is incredibly very low.”

Gurus including the Commissioner for Wellness in Lagos Point out, Prof Akin Abayomi, had warned of a achievable spike all through the festive period of time, even as the NCDC proceeds to advocate hygiene procedures and adherence to public health and fitness protocols when the Nationwide Major Wellness Treatment Enhancement Agency retains pushing for mass vaccination to attain herd immunity.

COVID-19 vaccination
COVID-19 vaccination

South Africa remaining ‘punished’ for honesty around new COVID-19 variant – Wellbeing ministry

South Africa, whose citizens have suddenly turn out to be persona-non-grata all over the world just after the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the country, suggests it is currently being “punished” and unfairly taken care of for sounding the alarm.

The federal government in the state worst strike by the pandemic on the continent is seething about the stigma it has endured in the earlier 48 hrs for becoming the bearer of lousy news.

The decision by many nations around the world all around the earth to ban flights from Southern Africa following the discovery of the variant, named Omicron, “is akin to punishing South Africa for its state-of-the-art genomic sequencing and the capacity to detect new variants faster,” the international affairs ministry said in a statement.

“Excellent science must be applauded and not punished,” it included.

“New variants have been detected in other nations. Every single of individuals situations has experienced no recent links with Southern Africa,” but the world “reaction to those people nations is starkly various to circumstances in southern Africa.”

The World Health Organisation has cautioned towards imposing journey limitations owing to Omicron.

South Africa’s health ministry slammed the travel constraints as “draconian”, “panic” and “misdirected” actions that go “against the norms and tips by the WHO”.

“We sense some of the leadership of nations around the world are getting scapegoats to deal with what is a worldwide challenge,” reported Overall health Minister, Joe Phaahla.

‘Travel ban is politics’

Pretoria fears the border closures will damage “families, the vacation and tourism sector, businesses” and that it may possibly prevent other countries from reporting discoveries of foreseeable future variants for anxiety of staying ostracised and punished.

“Sometimes a single gets punished for currently being clear, and carrying out items very promptly,” Tulio de Oliveira, a leading virologist who announced the discovery of the Omicron variant, explained.”

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