• WHO: Omicron reported in 57 countries, hospitalizations to increase
• Different and more resistant variant of Omicron found in South Africa, Australia and Canada
Saudi Arabia’s authority was the latest country to slam its doors on Nigeria as it suspended all flight operations from Nigeria to the kingdom yesterday due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID -19.
An official statement issued by the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to all airports and private aviation operators in the Kingdom ordered the suspension of all flights “directly or indirectly” from the Kingdom. Nigeria.
Incidentally, Saudi Arabia arrived with the restriction order just seven days after the country registered its Omicron index case of a passenger returning from North Africa to the country.
The statement read: “The Kingdom is suspending all incoming flights and the entry of non-nationals coming directly or indirectly from Nigeria, with the exception of those who have spent a period of at least 14 days in another country of Nigeria. where they are allowed to come.
“Home quarantine will be applied for a period of five days to Saudi citizens from the mentioned country, provided that the PCR test on the first day and on the fifth day, regardless of the vaccination status, becomes negative.
“Failure to comply with the circular issued by the GACA is an explicit violation of government injunctions. Legal proceedings will be initiated against the offenders who will be held responsible. ”
A source from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), which confirmed the suspension of passengers entering the Kingdom from Nigeria, said the NAHCON was still awaiting an official communication from the Saudi authority regarding the new restriction of trip. The Commission insisted, however, that the measure would not hamper its preparation for Hajj 2022.
Meanwhile, the suspension of passengers in Saudi Arabia will hamper thousands of Nigerians who have already made preparations, including payments, to perform a lesser Hajj.
An Azman Airline source revealed that more than 400 passengers who were due to leave Nigeria on Sunday for the Lesser Hajj would be stranded by the restriction order.
The source told the Guardian that the local airline could be forced to reimburse more than 160 million naira in airfare to passengers whose journey to the Holy Land was abruptly interrupted.
“The sudden warning will cause the airline a lot of economic losses. Although our flight which was due to depart on Sunday was cut short, we have a similar number of passengers returning home from Saudi Arabia.
“Although the airline is not allowed to take passengers, it is allowed to come with empty jumbo jets to bring our passengers back to Nigeria. It will cost around 30 million naira to power the plane. It is really a huge loss, “he lamented.
Nigeria’s National Travel Agency (NATAN) Vice President, Northern Zone, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Ibrahim, told the Guardian that more than 600 members of the association will suffer huge losses as a result of the Kingdom’s action .
He said the order came when the association with more than 400 subscribers in Kano state alone, invested huge sums in airlines, visas and passenger accommodation before any Hajj in the Holy Land. .
Although Abdulrazaq regretted that the action came as members barely recovered from the major economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which saw the cancellation of the Hajj, he hoped that the suspension would not last longer than necessary.
President Muhammadu Buhari performed Umrah (Little Hajj) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during a trip to the country for the Future Investment Initiative Summit last month.
Recall that at the beginning of the year (June), Saudi Arabia canceled the hajj for all foreign pilgrims. NAHCON then described it as an act of God.
A statement from the head of public affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, said that no matter how painful the cancellation was, the commission respects Saudi Arabia’s decision and has accepted it as Allah’s divine design.
ALREADY, the Omicron variant has been reported in 57 countries and the number of patients requiring hospitalization is likely to increase as it spreads, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.
The WHO, in its weekly epidemiological report, said more data was needed to assess the severity of the disease caused by the Omicron variant and whether its mutations could reduce protection against vaccine-derived immunity.
“Even though the severity is equal or potentially even less than that of the Delta variant, hospitalizations are expected to increase if more people are infected and there will be a lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increased incidence of cases. dead, ”he said.
On November 26, WHO said the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, was a variant of concern. It is the fifth SARS-CoV-2 strain to carry such a designation.
Referring to the risk of reinfection, WHO said: “Preliminary analysis suggests that mutations present in the Omicron variant may reduce the neutralizing activity of antibodies, resulting in reduced protection against natural immunity. “
AMID the growing number of cases of the new variant which is rapidly sweeping the world, a ‘sister’ line of Omicron has been detected by scientists.
Experts who detected the strain said it was genetically similar to the chaos-causing super-mutant in South Africa. But a key difference from the Omicron-like subvariant is that it lacks a genetic quirk that allows authorities to quickly track its spread.
Virologists said the version, currently called BA.2, has already been identified in South Africa, Australia and Canada, suggesting it is already spreading to other countries. However, no exact details about the nearly identical strain are known – and its true origin remains a mystery.
Australian officials sounded the alarm bells about BA.2 on Tuesday evening, saying it was “the world’s first”. He was spotted in a South African man returning from the Omicron Ground Zero country of Gauteng.
Preliminary analysis suggests that it contains its own set of mutations as well as many found in the original Omicron.
In theory, this means that BA.2, as the original Omicron, might also be more transmissible than Delta and possibly able to avoid vaccines.
However, no concrete evidence has yet been released, with BA.2 only coming into the public spotlight yesterday.
While information is still emerging, a key difference from the Omicron-like lineage is that it cannot be detected almost immediately.
Known as the S gene stall, this aspect of the original Omicron means it can be detected using a PCR test, as opposed to a more complicated lab test.
The fact that BA.2 does not have this dropped S gene means that this shortcut cannot be used and is therefore more difficult to follow as an outbreak.
Australian Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed the case at a press conference. “We are here to announce a new version of Omicron and this is a world first,” she said.