ABUJA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian health authorities are monitoring emerging evidence on the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 and its implications, the country's top disease control official said on Monday.
Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said in a statement sent to Xinhua in Abuja that the west African country will not lose guard on the Omicron variant, adding that Nigeria is yet to detect the new variant in the country. He, however, warned citizens to avoid visiting countries where cases have been so far reported.
"Considering the highly likely increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its emergence that is linked to unmitigated community transmission of the virus, the NCDC urges Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place," the NCDC top official said.
He said given the high number of mutations present in this Omicron variant and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases observed in South Africa, this variant is considered highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern.
Adetifa said the fears about the Omicron variant's ability to evade protective immune responses or its being vaccine-resistant are "only theoretical so far," noting the variant can still be detected with existing polymerase chain reaction tests.
"The World Health Organization and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain an understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics," he added.