Nigeria said on Wednesday that it had confirmed its first cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, but changed its original statement to say that the travelers had all arrived in Nigeria in the last week.
Initially, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said that retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travelers to Nigeria had identified the Omicron variant among a sample collected in October.
An amended statement from the NCDC did not mention the October sample, and a spokesman said the sample contained the Delta variant, not Omicron.
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First reported in southern Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the difference between massive vaccination advances in rich countries and sparse inoculation in developing countries.
The NCDC also said in its amended statement that the Omicron COVID-19 variant was discovered in “three people with a history of traveling to South Africa.” The first statement said it was discovered in two travelers who arrived from South Africa last week.
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“Given the highly likely increased portability of the Omicron variant, it is imperative to introduce measures to slow down community transmission,” the NCDC said.
Data from other countries already show that the variant circulated before it was officially identified in southern Africa, and it has since been discovered in more than a dozen countries. The work of determining whether it is more contagious, deadly or evading vaccines will take weeks.
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The announcement from the NCDC came ahead of a meeting between South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja on Wednesday, where Omicron is likely to be discussed.
Several nations have imposed travel restrictions on countries in southern Africa, which Ramaphosa says is unjustified and harms developing countries.
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