In its desperate bid to curtail the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant UK announced that all international arrivals to the country will now be required to take pre-departure COVID-19 tests.
Also, UK has added Nigeria to the travel red list – joining several southern African nations which are already on the list after the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa late November.
The British Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, who announced this, however, acknowledged that the measures are “hugely unfortunate” for people who already had travel plans but insists they will be “temporary”.
With COVID tests required before flying to the UK, only UK citizens and residents will be able to enter the country from Nigeria, and they will have to pay to stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days.
The rule applies to all travellers over the age of 12 visiting the UK or returning from a holiday, regardless of vaccination status, and will come into force from 4.00am on Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
“Tests must be taken a maximum of 48 hours before the departure time,’’ Javid said, explaining “it is because of an increasing number of cases linked to travel”.
Persecondnews reports that Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had on Dec. 1 reported three cases of the Omicron variant.
“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control conducts case and genomic surveillance for inbound international travellers arriving in the country at its National Reference Laboratory, Abuja and a network of other testing laboratories.
“Sequencing of samples from COVID-19 positive inbound travellers is currently conducted in laboratories with sequencing capacity in the country and all the sequencing data are shared in publicly accessible databases.
“This genomic surveillance has now identified and confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, now known as the Omicron variant. Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a history of travel to South Africa.
“These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week. Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced. Arrangements are also being made to notify the country where travel originated according to the provisions of the International Health Regulations’’, a statement by the Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said.
“The NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant. Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases. We continue to expand our sequencing capacity in-country at the NCDC-NRL, through our network of public health laboratories and other partners.
“Our focus is to complete sequencing of recently accrued samples of SARS-COV-2 positive travelers from all countries, especially those from countries that have reported the Omicron variant.”