COVID-19: WHO urges vigilance as FG allays fears


The World Health Organisation, on Wednesday, said China’s recent COVID-19 outbreak is predominantly led by the Omicron subvariants BA.5.2 and BF.7.

The WHO disclosed this in a press statement, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH.

The organisation said the subvariants account for 97.5 per cent of all local infections.

It said it would continue to monitor the situation in China and globally and urged all countries to continue to be vigilant.

The statement read in part, “WHO will continue to closely monitor the situation in the People’s Republic of China and globally and urges all countries to continue to be vigilant, to monitor and report sequences, as well as to conduct independent and comparative analyses of the different Omicron sublineages, including on the severity of disease they cause.

“At this time, the TAG-VE is also evaluating the rapidly increasing proportion of XBB.1.5 in the United States and other countries. An updated risk assessment of XBB.1.5, beyond the previous statement, is in progress.

“The TAG-VE meets regularly and continues to assess the available data on the transmissibility, clinical severity, and immune escape potential of variants, including the potential impact on diagnostics, therapeutics, and the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection and/or severe disease.”

35 new cases

Meanwhile, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that the country recorded 35 new cases of COVID-19 infections in the last week of December 2022.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the centre stated on its website on Wednesday that 22 of the cases were recorded in the FCT; 10 were recorded in Lagos State; two were recorded in Delta, while one was recorded in Plateau.

The cases were recorded between December 24 and December 30, 2022, it added.

The new cases increased Nigeria’s total infections to 266,450 and 3,155 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019.

FG allays fears

The NCDC has however said the COVID-19 Omicron sub-lineages partly responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in China, the United States and the United Kingdom have not yet been detected in the country

Despite the assurance, however, virologists have called for caution, saying there is a need for Nigeria to impose COVID-19 restrictions on travellers from countries recording high cases and improve disease surveillance to prevent a fresh outbreak in the country.

The NCDC made its position known on Wednesday in an update on COVID-19 genomic surveillance signed by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa.

The update, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent, showed that the Omicron sub-lineage responsible for the rise in cases in the US and UK is XBB.1.5 while BF.7 is responsible for the increased cases in China.

“The NCDC-led COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre is monitoring COVID-19 trends in China, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India and other countries with a high volume of traffic to and from Nigeria.

“This includes the resurgence of COVID-19 in China following the relaxation of the country’s zero-COVID policy, as well as significantly increased COVID-19 cases, admissions and deaths in the UK and the USA over the past weeks driven in part by the usual winter exacerbations of respiratory illnesses,” Adetifa said.

The NCDC boss said although COVID-19 protocols and restrictions have been eased, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to continue to adhere to the recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the use of face masks, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of crowded spaces.

He promised that the centre will continue to pay attention to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in other countries and gather additional surveillance data to inform actions.

“We are reviewing the situation again this week. At this next review and if deemed necessary, a range of actions, not limited to enhanced surveillance of travellers at airports, may be decided on and implemented,” he said. 

Virologists speak

Meanwhile, virologists told The PUNCH that there is a need for Nigeria to impose restrictions on travellers recording high cases of the virus and improve disease surveillance to prevent a fresh outbreak in the country.

An associate Professor of Virology at the Osun State University, Dr Waidi Sule, said, “The country needs to impose COVID-19 restrictions on travellers from China. Anybody that will come from there should have at least three doses of COVID-19 vaccination if the person is asymptomatic, otherwise, the person should be denied access to the country.

“The country should impose restrictions because of the nature of the disease, this is an infectious disease and a single person could bring it in and it can spread like wildfire again. Let us be on the side of caution not that every Tom, Dick, and Harry should just come into the country.”

Also, a virologist at the Department of Virology, College of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Dr Moses Adewumi, said “We need to improve on our surveillance and ensure people undergo necessary testing, we don’t have to jettison that for now.

“We need to be certain that the surveillance is really strong in Nigeria because I can tell you our people have relaxed in all these but if we are doing the necessary things, we should not have any problem. I know some people have developed antibodies due to exposure to the virus but we need strong surveillance.

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