It’s been months since the Nigerian government lifted almost all COVID-19 measures but with rising cases and concerns over a new strain called the Omicron variant, there are new fears about further measures before the end of the year.
Nigeria is the first West African country that has recorded the Omicron variant since scientists in southern Africa detected and reported it.
Everyone agrees that it is a cause for concern.
Despite worries about the new variant on Wednesday, the Federal Government of Nigeria is not talking about a new COVID-19 lockdown at this stage. But can that change in the next few days?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 26, 2021, designated the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus as a virus of concern.
As of the time of filing this report, It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including the Delta strain.
The number of people testing positive for Omicron is on the rise in areas like Nigeria, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Netherland, others.
According to the WHO, it is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes a more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.
There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.
Initially reported infections were among university students, younger individuals who tend to have a more mild infection but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take between days to several weeks.
All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.
It cannot be ascertained whether or not the Buhari-led Federal Government will impose another lockdown with the rise of Omicron and the already existing COVID-19 virus.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Government on Tuesday announced a ban on travellers who have visited African nations including Nigeria, amid worries over the spread of the Omicron variant.
Canada has identified five people with the new variant, at least two of whom were recently in Nigeria, citing last week’s orders by Ottawa barring travellers who had been to seven other southern African nations.
Asked directly about the possibility of another lockdown, Aina Tolulope a medical expert said, there is no need for lockdown or any form of restrictions, but warned that if the need arises later, safety measures will certainly be taken by authorities.
An Osun-based medical doctor, Dr. Olakunle Omoteemi, advised Nigerians to strictly adhere to protocols and endeavour to get vaccinated against COVID-19 even as the new and deadlier variant of the disease has been detected.
"I want to also believe that this new variant is coming at this period due to the approaching winter. I may be wrong but I want to believe that there is a connection between both.
"Also, the harmattan is approaching in our clime and there is a tendency that with the porous entry points into the country, in just a matter of weeks, the government would announce the index case in Nigeria.
"We just have to be cautious, take our vaccination and adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols," he said.
Furthermore, Ekiti-based Dr. Olaseinde says " For now, I don't see a lockdown but possible restrictions just like the COVID-19 variant started in 2019.
"Thinking of a lockdown now comes with so much economic, emotional impact. Remember the Nigerian Government is yet to recover from the previous lockdown.
"Rather, I believe more educative campaign about the variant will come aggressively, with Nigerians taking safety measures with regard to less social gathering, getting tested, wearing of nose mask and more."
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