Traveller who visited Nigeria tests positive for Omicron variant in France
• Omicron raises weekly new COVID-19 cases in Africa by 54%
• Ghana, Nigeria become first in West Africa, latest on the continent to report new variant
France has reported its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. The country’s health body in a statement, yesterday, said an Omicron case was detected in a person who returned from Nigeria.
According to the statement, the traveller is between 50 and 60 years old, and he tested positive for COVID-19 on November 25 after arriving France. Thereafter, sequencing showed on Wednesday that he was infected with the Omicron variant.
“The Ile-de-France Regional Health Agency was informed on Wednesday of a positive result by sequencing of the Omicron variant screened on his return from a trip to Nigeria. The entourage was tested and placed in solitary confinement,” the statement reads.
“His wife, who accompanied him on this trip, has also tested positive for COVID-19: sequencing is underway to verify if it is the Omicron variant. Both have remained in isolation at their home since their arrival.
“A third person living under the same roof was tested on December 2 to determine if they were infected and, if so, if they were a carrier of the variant. None of the three people is vaccinated.”
According to Reuters, another case was later found in a person who returned from South Africa. Meanwhile, African countries are stepping up measures to detect and control the spread of the Omicron variant as weekly new COVID-19 cases in the continent rise by 54 per cent due to an upsurge in southern Africa.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Region at a virtual press conference, yesterday, facilitated by APO Group, said, in Africa, the Omicron variant has now been detected in four countries, with Ghana and Nigeria becoming the first West African countries and the latest on the continent to report the new variant.
So far, Botswana and South Africa have reported 19 and 172 Omicron variant cases, respectively. Globally, more than 20 countries have detected the variant to date. The two southern African countries account for 62 per cent of cases reported globally.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said Omicron has a high number of mutations (32) in its spike protein, and preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection when compared with other variants of concern.
He said researchers and scientists in South Africa and the region are intensifying their investigations to understand the transmissibility, severity and impact of the Omicron variant in relation to the available vaccines, diagnostics and treatment and whether it is driving the latest surge in COVID-19 infections.
While new COVID-19 cases are rising in southern Africa, they dropped in all other sub-regions during the past week from the previous week. Working with African governments to accelerate studies and bolster the response to the new variant, WHO is urging countries to sequence between 75 and 150 samples weekly.
Moeti said the timely reporting of the new variant by Botswana and South Africa has bought the world time.
We have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures. Countries must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities.”