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Omicron Covid-19 not in Nigeria yet; we’ve ramped up surveillance — FG

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… as NCDC prioritises sequencing of samples from SARS-COV-2 positive travellers

As concerns continued to mount over the new variant of COVID-19 designated as variant of concern (VOC) and named Omicron by the World Health Organisation, WHO, the Federal Government on Sunday night reassured Nigerians that the Omicron variant has not been detected in Nigeria.

In a press statement, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said the centre is prioritising sequencing of recently accrued samples from SARS-COV-2 positive travellers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant already.

Adetifa further urged all States to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible, so that travelers and people with symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 cases get tested promptly.

“The state notes that the NCDC, through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) continues to coordinate genomic surveillance and other activities required for the detection of variants.”

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Adetifa also explained that a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong-Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting but no deaths have been attributed to the new variant yet.

He said: “A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID, (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).

“Given the high number of mutations present in this Omicron variant and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases observed in South Africa, this virus is considered highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other VOCs.

“However, the fears about its ability to evade protective immune responses and/or its being vaccine resistant are only theoretical so far.

“This virus can still be detected with existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (P”CR) tests.

“The WHO and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain 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.

Continuing, he said in collaboration with Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health, enhanced surveillance is ongoing at the airports and points of entry, and to ensure compliance with current travel guidance especially for the day 2 COVID-19 PCR testing.

“Should there be any changes to travel guidance, this will be communicated in due course.

Covid-19 protocols

“Considering the highly likely increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its emergence that is linked to unmitigated community transmission of the virus, he urged Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place, which are enforceable by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19), through the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021.

“We are collectively responsible for our own health security including playing our part to reduce the risk of the importation or spread of the Omicron variant in Nigeria,”he stated.

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He implored Nigerians to make every use of the currently available opportunities to get vaccinated against COVID-19, adhere to public health and social measures that have been proven to help prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of the circulating variant.

He said Nigerians should continue to wear face masks especially in crowded settings, wash their hands regularly, observe physical distancing i.e., keeping a distance of two metres from others, where possible, ensure good ventilation, avoid travel to countries where there is a surge in COVID-19 cases or reported cases of the Omicron variant and avoid all non-essential travel both local and international.

“If you must travel, please adhere to travel protocols instituted by the PSC-COVID-19 which are in place to prevent the risk of importation of the virus or its variants to Nigeria.

“The virus is more likely to spread where people gather and do not adhere to these measures.

“Therefore we appeal to business owners, religious leaders, and people in authority to take responsibility by ensuring people in their premises wear masks and adhere to physical distancing.

“We must do all we can to protect ourselves and our country,” he advised.

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Resident doctors threaten strike, gives FG two-week ultimatum 

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The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has given the Federal Government a two-week ultimatum to implement the agreement reached on the welfare of its members.

The association gave the ultimatum after its national executive council meeting on Saturday in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital.
The association said should the FG fail to comply with its demands, it would embark on an industrial action.

The communique was signed by Dare Ishaya, NARD president; Suleiman Abiodun, the secretary-general, and Alfa Yusuf, publicity and social secretary.
“The NEC observed with dismay, the unnecessary delay in the implementation and payment of the new Hazard Allowance for over seven (7) months since its approval on 22nd December 2021 in a circular with reference No. SWC/S/04/S.218/11/406,” the communique reads.
“The NEC observed that the skipping arrears covering 2014, 2015 and 2016 have remained unpaid despite several negotiations with the Federal Government over the matter.”
The association alleged that years after the implementation of a new minimum wage, some of its members are yet to benefit from the adjustment.
NARD also expressed displeasure over the condition of its members in Imo, Ondo, Ekiti and Gombe states who are “owed 10, 5, 3 and 2 months respectively”.
The association urged the federal government to expedite action on the payment of the newly reviewed Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF).
“The NEC demands the immediate implementation and payment of the new Hazard Allowance and arrears as contained in the circular from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) dated 22nd December 2021 with reference number SWC/S/04/S.218/11/406 within two (2) weeks, ” the communique read.
“The NEC demands immediate payment of consequential adjustment of minimum wage to our members who have been deprived this benefit since it was implemented several years ago.
“The NEC demands an immediate review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and other related allowances given the current economic situation in the country, and also in line with the agreed terms from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that it will be reviewed regularly.
“The NEC enjoins the Federal and all State Governments to look into the issue of assault on doctors and thoroughly investigate the ongoing cases and put measures in place to nip this menace in the bud to forestall future occurrences, as these inhumane acts have affected our members both physically and mentally.
“The NEC urges the Federal Government to take steps toward curtailing the brain drain in the health sector and find ways of eliminating all bureaucratic bottlenecks in the employment and replacement of the Resident Doctors leaving our institutions daily to seek greener pastures.”
The association said it will reconvene in two weeks to review the “progress made so far and take further actions for which nationwide industrial harmony may not be guaranteed.”

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NIMR Discovers New Severe Malaria Vector In Northern Nigeria

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The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) says it has discovered a new malaria vector named Anopheles stephensi in northern Nigeria.

According to Wikipedia, Anopheles stephensi is a primary mosquito vector of malaria in urban India and is included in the same subgenus as Anopheles gambiae, the primary malaria vector in Africa.

It is a highly competent vector of Plasmodium Falciparum and P. Vivax, considered an efficient vector of urban malaria.

The Anopheles stephensi mosquito has long since been considered an Asian malaria vector. It is native to parts of South-East Asia and parts of the Arabian Peninsula

Director General of the Institute, Professor Babatunde Salako, told newsmen in Lagos during his 63rd birthday ceremony on Monday night that the discovery was one of the institute’s recent research discoveries.

The vector, according to him, spreads malaria called plasmodium falciparum.

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He described the vector as a rugged one that is very difficult to eradicate.

“This has implication for malaria control in Nigeria because hitherto, the vector was known in West Africa sub-region,” he said.

Professor Salako further disclosed that the Institute is currently looking at vaccine development as a lot of studies have been done. According to him, the institute is working with five groups in a consortium to develop local vaccines in Nigeria.

He explained that development of vaccine, which the institute is into, is different from vaccine production.

The idea behind the vaccine development, he said, is to ensure that Nigerian researchers are able to learn the development process from the beginning to the end.

“This is important so that when we have a new epidemic or disease, known or unknown, it would be possible for Nigeria to develop its own vaccine,” Salako added.

He further disclosed that the institute is working on testing 2,000 people in Nigeria with a view to knowing whether the three COVID-19 vaccines evoked a response or not and also also to know how long it can be effective in their bodies.

“The essence of this is to know the effectiveness, side effects and responsiveness of human body to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

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Monkeypox common among gay men – WHO

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The monkeypox outbreak is prevalent among men who have sex with men, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said this on Saturday at a media briefing where he declared the multi-country monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of global concern.

He said, “So, in short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations.

“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.

 

“That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.

“It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect both the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities.”

A study published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine also revealed that cases of monkeypox are prevalent among men who have sex with  men.

According to the study, out of 528 infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, 2022, at 43 sites in 16 countries, 98 percent of the persons with infection were gay or bisexual men.

“These data point clearly to the fact that infections are so far almost exclusively occurring among men who have sex with men,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University.

“And the clinical presentation of these infections suggest that sexual transmission, not just close physical contact, may be helping spread the virus among this population.”

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