The recent discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, known as the Omicron variant has prompted governments around the world to contemplate possible implications of the new variant while putting measures in place to protect citizens. Nigeria is not left out as the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 30th November, mandated its ad-hoc Committee on COVID-19 to meet with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to discuss the Federal Government’s response strategy. Meanwhile, Nigeria confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant on Wednesday, December 1. According to a statement by the Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa the variant was discovered in the samples of three passengers with a history of travel to South Africa – two who arrived Nigeria last week and one who came into Nigeria in October 2021. As at 30th November, Nigeria has recorded a total of 214,218 COVID-19 infections and 2,977 deaths.
Initial reports stated that the Omicron variant was first discovered in Botswana. This has however been contradicted with reports of an earlier discovery in the Netherlands. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that at least 20 countries around the world – in Europe, Africa and North America have reported cases of the new variant. Its rate of transmissibility, fatality and response to available vaccines, are still the subject of ongoing medical research. While several countries have confirmed cases of the new variant, others have imposed travel restrictions on passengers from Southern African countries to prevent infections. Canada has just announced travel bans for Nigeria, Egypt and Malawi. There is worry which is widely expressed in the African continent that the Omicron variant has provided an excuse for Western countries to shut out Africa. South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa described the travel ban on South Africa as discriminating and called for its lifting.