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Nigeria and Ghana have reported first cases of the omicron variant

The omicron variant has been detected in west Africa. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), three persons with history of travel to South Africa returned positive tests for the new covid-19 variant.

“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week,” the agency said in a statement. It had earlier said the positives were from samples collected in October but clarified that those were delta cases.

“Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced.”

Ghana said it has also detected omicron cases from samples sequenced on Nov. 21, according to Reuters. The country’s health service did not say how many cases, only that they were from Nigeria, and South Africa. That may raise questions as to when the variant first entered Nigeria.

South Africa, with 77 cases as of press time, has confirmed more omicron cases than any other country, with the UK, Botswana, the Netherlands, and Portugal each reporting more than 10 cases. But with Nigeria now reporting cases, the variant is officially in one of the world’s most populous countries.

More cases expected

As it has done since February 2020, the NCDC coordinates Nigeria’s covid-19 response in a centralized structure that relays guidance to health agencies in the country’s 36 states. The agency says its view is that omicron is spreading rapidly globally and, as such, is preparing to identify more cases.

“Our focus is to complete sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travelers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already,” the agency said.

Given the threat, it has asked states to ramp up sample collection and testing using antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) or PCR kits.

For travelers into and out of the country, the agency is restoring a mandate to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken 48 hours before departure. Before arriving in Nigeria, inbound travelers are required to book day two and day seven tests too. The three positive omicron cases were the result of day two tests, the agency said.

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