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Despite Omicron breakout, NCDC frowns at travel ban among countries

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COVID-19 strengthened Nigeria's health sector —NCDC boss

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has frowned at the imposition of travel bans by various countries in the aftermath of the breakout of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Director-General of the NCDC, Ifedayo Adetifa, made the observation on Wednesday during a live interview on AriseTV monitored by Ripples Nigeria.

Ripples Nigeria had reported that Canada had imposed a travel ban on Nigeria in the wake of the discovery of the variant in two Nigerian travellers.

In response to a question on the travel bans, Adetifa said, “The decision on a travel ban is not made by the NCDC but from a tech perspective, we will not recommend a travel ban and it is not grounded in science. Cases of this variant were discovered in Europe before South Africa announced and the bans are not driven by science.

“What we need is enhanced vigilance and surveillance; recall Canada discovered two Nigerians with this variant so when will the ban end when it starts?

READ ALSO: OMICRON: Reps charge COVID-19 Task Force, NCDC to intensify surveillance in Nigeria

“From the NCDC perspective, we give technical advice regarding a travel ban and this depends on the risk assessments of countries across the world by comparing genomic data before giving recommendations regarding banning a particular country. Of course, politics gets involved but we are focused on science.”

He further clarified the initial declaration of the NCDC over the non-discovery of the variant in Nigeria saying, “Our initial assertion was correct based on the sequencing we got on a daily basis but the update today indicated that the Omicron variant is in Nigeria and there might be more cases as sequencing continues which obtains worldwide.

“On measures, we enhance surveillance in terms of travellers and in-bound travellers regarding all the requisite testing and vaccination. The presidential task force on COVID-19 made the testing mandatory irrespective of vaccination status. All travellers will be given the same attention.

“The oxygen plants are still functioning regarding serious cases as the NCDC monitors events though the reported cases have been asymptomatic. Contact tracing, isolation and other relevant precautions will be implemented. The initial requirements are still the same.”

Adetifa reiterated the importance of vaccination since it eliminates transmission of the virus within humans while linking the emergence of variants to the unvaccinated.

“It must be noted that variants emerge all the time due to recurrent transmission amongst humans. Africa has been lucky regarding severity but risks remain and one of the precautions is to get vaccinated since it prevents transmission

“The NCDC will improve the testing per capita in order to ensure completeness of genomic surveillance. We know there are cartels operating across the world regarding fake tests results but as mentioned by the Federal Government; the authorities are cracking down on these criminals at the airports and labs across the country.”

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