Apublic health expert has asked the federal government to swiftly rejig its strategies for tackling COVID-19 pandemic following reports of a potentially deadlier variant of the contagion, the Omicron, already found in South Africa.
Dr Gabriel Adakole on Sunday called on the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 to look into the possibility of returning the requirement of wearing facemask following the threats from the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
Officials in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Czech Republic, Italy, as well as the UK, have confirmed that the new Omicron variant has appeared in their respective countries, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread.
The variant’s quick spread among young people in South Africa has alarmed health professionals even though there was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease.
Mr Adakole emphasised that the PSC should tighten the country’s rules on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals across all airports.
He noted that the committee should return any protections that the country would need in preventing further surge.
“PSC needs to continue comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures to prevent transmission.
“The earlier the protective measures are implemented, the less restrictive they would need to be effective.
“The more COVID-19 circulates, the more opportunities the virus will have to change and mutate, and the pandemic will last longer,” he added.
He thankfully expressed that no Omicron variant case has been reported in the country so far.
“Because of fears that the new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns around the world that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will persist for far longer than hoped,” he said.
Meanwhile, he called on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to scale up surveillance, strengthen public health and social measures.
“The NCDC must enhance surveillance and sequencing while assessing the risk of importation through international travel based on updated information on circulating variants and response capacities and take measures accordingly.
“Though our COVID-19 cases have been declining, the surge in cases elsewhere in the world and confirmation of a new variant of concern is a reminder of the persisting risk and the need for us to continue to do our best to protect against the virus and prevent its spread. At no cost should we let our guards down,” he explained.
He also called on the PSC to enhance vaccination coverage, because of the surge in COVID-19 cases globally, and the detection of the new variant.
Mr Adakole reminded Nigerians that they must not forget that the pandemic is far from being over.
“Now that government is opening everywhere, we should not get complacent. Festivities and celebrations must include all precautionary measures.
“Crowds and large gatherings must be avoided. The current situation warrants further stepping up efforts on all fronts,” he advised.