From a daily average of 74 cases seen in the first week of December, Nigeria’s current Covid-19 cases have shot up by 451 percent to an average of 408, in a bout of infections driven by the latest Omicron variant.
A total of 2,859 cases were confirmed in the week ended December 12, compared with 520 in the preceding week. Nigeria now has 217, 481 cases confirmed and 2, 981 deaths recorded across the federation.
Nigeria recorded its first three cases of omicron on December 1, days after it was first discovered in South Africa and has entered a travell ban tussle with some countries.
The rise, 75 percent led by Lagos, the epicentre of the disease, has activated the reality of the fourth wave of the disease in Nigeria, reliving a similar pattern of surge that played out this time last year.
In December 2020, Nigeria was dragged into a second wave of the pandemic by a sustained rise in community infections, claiming 1,197 lives.
A new variant of COVID-19, lineage B.1.1.7 (Alpha), which cancelled Christmas in the UK, was found in Nigeria but after initial discovery in the UK.
About 5, 618 new coronavirus cases had been recorded by the middle of the month, raising the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 73, 175 as of December 13.
A fresh record of the highest daily cases was set December 13 with 796 infections, overtaking 790 cases set July 1st during the gradual easing of the two-month-long lockdown that affected the federal capital territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states.
While intensified testing and surveillance at major points of entry reflects in the current infection rate, the World Health Organization says the variant reported in more than 60 countries, poses a very high global risk, with mutations likely leading to higher transmissibility.
However, clinical data on its severity remains limited.
“The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high for a number of reasons,” the WHO said in a technical brief issued on Sunday, reiterating its first assessment of Nov. 29.
It added there were early signs that vaccinated and previously infected people would not build enough antibodies to ward off infection from Omicron, resulting in high transmission rates and severe consequences.
It remains unclear for now whether the new lineage is also inherently more contagious than the dominant Delta variant, which would fuel its spread further, WHO warned.
Nigeria might be in a difficult situation if the virus turns violent as the slow vaccination rate has left the country lagging behind peers.
The country has only administered slightly over 9.6 million doses, with just 6.26 percent of its population covered, according to the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite having over 21 million doses of vaccine supplies including AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna, the country suffers a 54.4 percent (11.5 million) gap in uptake.
Ironically, the federal government began to administer COVID-19 booster doses last Friday, raising public scrutiny of the country’s vaccination plans.
This, amid a stock of vaccine supplies that is nowhere near adequate, and poor capacity for genomic surveillance nationwide underscores how ill-equipped the country is to tackle the latest COVID-19 strain if things escalate.
“This virus is still mutating. Fortunately, so far, the information we have about the Omicron is that it is not so virulent. But we don’t know what other variant will emerge. If a more virulent variant emerges, then we will be in trouble. So the best thing is to take precautions,” Akin Osibogun, a professor of Public Health at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos told BusinessDay.