Updated: Dec 5, 2021
Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant among three travelers who arrived in the country last week, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and if it can thwart the vaccine.
The Nigerian CDC urged the country's states and the general public to be on alert and called for improved testing amid concerns that Nigeria’s low testing capacity might become a big challenge in the days ahead.
Testing for the virus is low in many states and even in the nation’s capital, Abuja. The detection of the omicron variant in Africa’s most populous nation, with 206 million people, coincides with Nigeria’s new requirement that all federal government employees must be inoculated or present a negative COVID-19 test result done in the last 72 hours.
With the vaccine mandate taking effect on Wednesday, there were chaotic scenes at several offices in the nation’s capital as civil servants without a vaccination card or a negative PCR test were turned away by security agents. Many of the workers and security agents were not wearing face masks.
Across Nigeria, the news of the omicron variant — which the World Health Organization has warned poses “very high” risk — has triggered concerns and renewed fears over the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the airport in Lagos Nigeria's largest city and economic hub, authorities insisted that travelers must wear their face masks at the counters, though not much attention is paid to many others flouting health protocols around the airport premises and in the city.
Nigeria — with 214,218 confirmed infections including nearly 3,000 deaths — has updated its travel advisory, ordering incoming international travelers to have a PCR test 48 hours before embarking on their trip to the country and two more tests, two days and seven days after arrival. Incoming international arrivals must also isolate for seven days.