Omicron Covid appeared in Nigeria in OCTOBER – weeks before South Africa announced discovery of variant, new tests reveal
Nigeria found first cases of Omicron Covid today in travellers from South Africa
But health chief said retroactive testing had found an earlier case in October
If confirmed it would be the earliest-known Omicron infection, meaning the virus was in circulation undetected for weeks before South Africa identified it
Comes after Dutch scientists also found case that pre-dates Omicron’s discovery
Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of Omicron Covid and revealed it was in the country in October, weeks before South Africa alerted the world to its existence.
Three Omicron cases were detected in travellers who arrived in Nigeria from South Africa within the past week, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control said today.
But Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, the agency’s director, added that retroactive testing of Covid samples collected in recent weeks had identified another case of Omicron dating back to October.
It means that Omicron – designated a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO and believed to be the most-infectious form of Covid yet found – was likely circulating undetected for weeks before first being identified.
The discovery comes just a day after after Dutch health authorities said they also found a case of Omicron in a sample collected on November 19, four days before South Africa sounded the alarm.
If confirmed, the Nigerian case would be the earliest-known Omicron infection – rewriting the timeline of the variant’s origins.
However, it does not necessarily mean the variant emerged in Nigeria because it is unclear how or why the sample was collected. Dr Adetifa did not give details.