Ghana has detected its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye who announced this Wednesday in Accra said the first case was discovered on Sunday, November 21, 2021, in a Nigerian traveller through sequencing. Another case was recorded in a traveller from South Africa.Follow @Graphicgh
"The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 disease has been found at the Kotoka International Airport," Dr Kuma-Aboagye said at an event organised today to announce the start of mass COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.
"The good thing is that in the community test done so far, we have not seen any Omicron within the community of Ghana, but the danger is that if someone has the Omicron, and it is incubating, it will not be found at the airport".
He added that so far, no case of the new Omicron variant has been recorded in the "community of Ghana".
Dr Kumah-Aboagye also assured that the country will strengthen its strategies at the airport to prevent the importation of the illness.
"For Christmas, we are going to ensure that to prevent importation, the strategies at the airport which have served us a lot will continue and be strengthened to ensure that people are tested before they leave and when they arrive to reduce the importation (of COVID-19)," he said.
"We are going to monitor all our ports of entry, we are increasing our surveillance across the country to ensure that cases are followed up. We are also going to identify countries of concern so that even when they arrive and are negative, we have a different protocol on how to observe them...".
Omicron was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa in November 2021 and early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk.
Cases of the new variant have also been confirmed in several European countries, including the UK, Germany and Italy, as well as Botswana, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong.
In response, a number of countries have now banned or restricted flights to and from South Africa and several neighbouring nations.
South Africa has complained that it is being punished - instead of applauded - for discovering Omicron.
The South African Foreign Ministry in a statement on Saturday strongly criticised the travel bans.
"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished," it said.
The bans were "akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker".
The statement added that the reaction had been completely different when new variants were discovered elsewhere in the world.