The World Health Organisation’s regional office for Africa, on Thursday, declared the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as the dominant strain in two African countries: Nigeria and Cape Verde.
While the body did not reveal the number of Omicron cases in the two countries, it noted, “While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.”
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had on December 1, 2021, announced three new index cases of the Omicron variant, which was tagged a variant of concern in the country.
As of December 21, 2021, the centre added that the number of Omicron cases in the country had risen to 45.
Speaking during a virtual press briefing, the WHO Director of Emergency Preparedness, Dr. Abdou Laye Gueye, who spoke on behalf of the Regional Director, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso, explained that the low vaccination rate had continued to fuel the variants, adding that the next wave might not be so forgiving as the Omicron variant.
“In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type. While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.
“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief, but no less destabilising. The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccination. The next wave might not be so forgiving.
“So far, 30 African countries, and at least 142 globally, have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa. In West Africa, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences undertaken by countries, including Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, is growing.
“In Cabo Verde and Nigeria, Omicron is currently the dominant variant.
“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim.”