Nigeria Detects Recent Cases of Omicron Variant

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Ghana and Nigeria are the latest African countries to detect the Omicron variant.

A woman being tested for Covid-19 in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday.
A woman being tested for Covid-19 in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday.Credit…Gbemiga Olamikan/Associated Press

By Abdi Latif Dahir and Ben Ezeamalu

  • Dec. 1, 2021Updated 3:31 p.m. ET

Health officials in Ghana and Nigeria announced on Wednesday that they had identified the Omicron variant in travelers who arrived in their countries in November from other African countries.

Nigeria detected the variant in three travelers who arrived from South Africa in the last week, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ghana also announced on Wednesday that it detected the Omicron variant in airline passengers who arrived in Accra, the capital, on Nov. 21. Those passengers had arrived from Nigeria and South Africa, according to Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the director general of the Ghana Health Service.

At least 23 countries around the world have reported cases of Omicron, and that number is likely to grow as more samples are tested, the World Health Organization said in a news conference on Wednesday.

The variant was first detected in Botswana and South Africa.

Ghana and Nigeria are the third and fourth countries in mainland Africa to report cases.

Scientists say it could be weeks before more is known about how transmissible the variant is, the severity of illness it causes and how much protection the current vaccines offer against it.

Still, governments have reacted with alarm and markets have tumbled in recent days, as the W.H.O. rated the global risk from the variant “very high.”

On Wednesday, Nigerian health officials urged state governments to make testing easily accessible, vaccinate many more people and ensure the public was adhering to public health measures including masking and social distancing. Nigeria has so far reported 214,113 positive cases and 2,976 deaths from the coronavirus.

With more than 200 million people, Nigeria has administered just over 9.8 million vaccine doses, according to the World Health Organization. Starting Wednesday, federal government workers were expected to either be vaccinated or show a negative Covid-19 certificate. Travelers into the country are expected to arrive with a negative Covid test and to take two more tests on the second and seventh day following arrival.

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control had said earlier on Wednesday that it had also detected the Omicron variant in a sample from October, but then retracted that announcement. The earlier sample was of the Delta variant, according to a message shared on WhatsApp by the center’s spokesman, Emeka Oguanuo.

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