Omicron variant: Travel bans loom as Canada detects Nigeria-linked cases

HIV, Covid-19 pandemic

Medical experts on Monday warned that Nigeria risked travel bans with Canada’s detection of Omicron variant of COVID-19 in two travellers from Nigeria.

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

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

He said 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.

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

Our correspondents learnt that it was through the genomics sequencing of the virus that the variant of the disease could be detected.

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 Omicron variant, a newly discovered strain of the coronavirus disease, was first reported by the government of South Africa and later by other Southern African countries including Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi.

The variant has also been reported in the United Kingdom, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Hong Kong.

On Monday, Canada said the variant had been detected in two travellers, who recently visited Nigeria.

Commenting on the development,  Tomori in an interview with one of our correspondents took a swipe at the NCDC.

He stated, “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 so because the NCDC has control of the laboratories.

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