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A man receives an AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in Abuja on November 19 / AP

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the mutation was identified in two test samples taken between November 19 and 23, also before it was first reported by South Africa.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (CDC) identified its first cases through genomic sequencing of Covid-19.

They came from two unidentified travellers who arrived last week but the variant had already been confirmed beforehand.

A person receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at the National hospital in Abuja/ REUTERS

Director-general Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said the country remains at alert in the face of the emerging crisis.

“We are working very hard to enhance ongoing surveillance, especially for inbound travellers, and also trying to ramp up testing including at the land borders,” he said.


“Retrospective sequencing of the previously confirmed cases among travellers to Nigeria also identified the Omicron variant among the sample collected in October 2021,” Dr Adetifa added.

Scientists in southern Africa reported the Omicron variant adding to a list of nearly 20 countries where it has been recorded, triggering travel bans across the world.


Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, or whether it makes people more seriously ill.

The Nigeria CDC urged the country’s states and the general public to be on alert and called for improved testing amid concerns Nigeria’s low testing capacity might become its biggest challenge in the face of the new variant.


Testing for the virus is low in many states and even in the capital Abuja.

The detection of the Omicron variant in Africa’s most populous nation, with 206 million people, coincides with Nigeria’s new requirement all federal government employees must be vaccinated or present a negative Covid-19 test result done in the last 72 hours.

The World Health Organization has warned Omicron poses “very high” risk.

Across Nigeria, the news of its arrival has triggered concerns and renewed fears over the Covid-19 pandemic.


The country currently has 214,218 confirmed infections including nearly 3,000 deaths.

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