COVID-19: No cases of Omicron variant in Ghana

BY: Kweku Zurek

The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye has stated that a case of the heavily mutated new COVID-19 variant named Omicron has not been identified in the country.

Addressing a press briefing today in Accra, Dr Kuma-Aboagye urged the public to disregard false messages on social media about an Omicron variant case being recorded in Ghana.

"...We have not identified one (Omicron) in Ghana. All people who are tested positive at the airport, their samples are sequenced, all of them," Dr Kuma Aboagye said.

"We also pick samples from reference labs across the country to do sequencing. Currently, they have a bunch of 160 that they are working on now but, there is no indication of Omicron in Ghana. So all those messages flying around, it's not true, there is no case in Ghana".

He said the GHS response to the new variant was similar to previous variants and would be hinged on preventive measures such as the wearing of masks, vaccination and social distancing.

"The preventive measures remain the same, we have not had any evidence that it would pass through a different part than what we know now and so all the mechanisms that are in place continue to work and we will also continue our surveillance and once we discover, we will look at that".

Omicron

He said the GHS response to the new variant was similar to previous variants and would be hinged on preventive measures such as the wearing of masks, vaccination and social distancing.

"The preventive measures remain the same, we have not had any evidence that it would pass through a different part than what we know now and so all the mechanisms that are in place continue to work and we will also continue our surveillance and once we discover, we will look at that".

Omicron was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on Wednesday, 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.