THE global community is on edge following the recent discovery and ubiquitous spread of the fifth COVID-19 B.1.1.529 variant, which the World Health Organization has named Omicron. Discovered in South Africa, scientists alerted the world on November 23 to a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was immediately designated a “variant of concern” by the WHO because it exhibits many mutations and disturbing characteristics. The WHO says it poses a “very high” risk to public health.

Even more frightening is the economic fallout. The Economist, a leading UK newspaper, says the variant poses an economic risk to the world. “Faced with the appalling prospect of yet more lockdowns, closed borders and anxious consumers, investors have responded by selling shares in airlines and hotel chains. The price of oil has fallen by about $ 10 a barrel, the kind of drop often associated with a looming recession. “

Omicron is the fifth variant of concern from the WHO. The classification places it in the most troubling category of COVID-19 variants, with Delta dominating globally, along with its weaker rivals; Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Researchers are still working to determine whether a rapidly spreading coronavirus variant poses a threat to the effectiveness of COVID vaccines. It has already been confirmed that the efficacy of the vaccines is seven to 20 percent less effective against the Delta variant than the native virus strain.

So far, more than 25 countries on all continents have recorded cases of the variant, with South Africa leading the rankings with more than 77 infections. Nigeria has three cases.

As usual, countries with standard, first-world health institutions and better facilities have responded accordingly with strict epidemiological control measures, including restricting travelers from countries that have registered the new variant. , increased vaccination, the application of health protocols at points of entry and among citizens and the reintroduction of strict preventive measures. But according to Nature, the authoritative scientific journal, experts fear that travel bans imposed by some countries against South Africa and other countries in southern Africa following its discovery of Omicron may discourage governments. to share their surveillance data. “We are punishing those who did a good job,” says computational virologist Anderson Brito, of the All for Health Institute in São Paulo, Brazil.

Here, the lack of discretion and nonchalance of the regime led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) returned to the fore on December 1, when it received South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his visiting delegation. of state. At the end of the meeting, the president’s special advisor for media and advertising, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying that the meeting had been a success “despite the fear generated by the new COVID-19 variant”. And right after the visit, Buhari himself and his entourage took the next flight to the United Arab Emirates for Expo 2020 Dubai on December 2.

Experts including COVID-19 Expert Review Panel Chairman Oyewale Tomori had urged Buhari to postpone the physical meeting or go for a virtual option.

Responsible leaders lead by example. For example, the African Development Bank led by Nigerian Akinwunmi Adesina, postponed the Africa Investment Forum 2021, which was to be held in Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, the World Council of Muslim Communities conference has been postponed, as have many sporting events, including the Africa Games Week, which was scheduled to take place in Cape Town, South Africa. The Dutch government has banned supporters from football matches. It was noted that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden among other world leaders canceled trips due to the pandemic and took charge of the emergency by providing leadership responsive at home.

The country should not take unnecessary risks with the killer virus. The government should come up with a robust response to this dangerous variant. Prevention strategies must be reinvigorated. Failure to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, even by senior government officials, including the President, must end. COVID-19 protocols at points of entry should be strengthened. Port health services, the NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health should ensure that all travelers are tested for COVID-19 at points of entry. Swift and decisive actions, including the temporary imposition of flight restrictions, should not be seen as retaliatory measures, but as preventive measures to limit cases from high-burden countries, while keeping in mind Nigeria’s first round of reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant are travelers with a history of visits to South Africa, according to NCDC Director General Ifedayo Adetifa.

Omicron’s negative effects on the economy should not be ignored. Its emergence has added to the global economic uncertainty, with larger effects on structurally weak economies like that of Nigeria. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said a new wave of the pandemic threatens to add to existing pressure on the global economy due to persistently high inflation levels. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries adds that a looming supply glut will add to crude oil misery. Drastic fall in oil prThe ice will spell death knell for the public sector and disaster for the private sector, pushing the economy back to 2020 lows.

All hands must be on the bridge to navigate the uncertainties. The public must not let their guard down. The application of social distancing, the wearing of face masks in public places, especially in religious centers, as the festive celebrations, year-end religious gatherings and communal gatherings associated with this time of year will go a long way in reducing the spread of new variants. The government should reintroduce strict measures and impose sanctions on people who are lost, regardless of their status in society.

The National Guidance Agency, the Ministry of Information at state and federal levels, local government authorities, religious leaders, business leaders, market leaders and all those with influence should be engaged advocacy and lead by example by strictly adhering to health protocols.

Racketeering and vaccine profits by shady government officials, as well as the issuance of fake COVID-19 test certificates by government-accredited centers, must be stopped, as they despicable phenomena are dangerous for public health.

Vaccination is always important. Experts say if it spreads faster than the Delta variant, it will take vaccines and travel restrictions to restrain it. Wendy Barclay, virologist at Imperial College London, said: “I strongly urge people to take the opportunity to give their immune systems the best quantitative chance they have by receiving booster doses and the full cycle. vaccination. It is estimated that by the end of the year, enough vaccines will have been manufactured to immunize the entire world against COVID. Unfortunately, the richer countries accumulate unused supplies at the expense of developing countries.

Opinion makers should speak up about vaccine safety. COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be given to more Nigerians. Statistics from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency that a friendtry 6.7 million Nigerians were reached with the first dose, while only 3.7 million citizens were fully immunized, which is below average. These numbers are still depressing and cannot provide herd immunity until at least more than 70 percent of the adult population in Nigeria are vaccinated. Testing should be stepped up to detect more clandestine cases. Wearing a mask has no side effects. It only saves lives.

More funds must be seriously pumped into the already weak health system. The government must resolve any pending gray areas and negotiations with the Nigerian Association of Resident Physicians, the Nigerian Medical Association and other health sector associations to prevent industrial actions amid the spread of the news. COVID-19 variant. Any strike by health workers would be disastrous, especially with the increasing rate of hospitalizations in South Africa as people contract the Omicron variant.

There are unmistakable lessons from the mutations of Omicron tips. The first is that COVID-19 is still very much present and must be effectively contained, to prevent more preventable deaths and avoid another economic setback resulting from a strict lockdown. What is more bitter is that no country is safe until the virus is finally defeated and crushed.

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