75 cases of Omicron variant confirmed in Pakistan
The NIH says 12 of them are associated with international travel.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) on Tuesday confirmed 75 cases of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 across the country, a week after the first case was reported in Karachi.
“Because [the] WHO [World Health Organisation] designated Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26, 2021, the NHSRC ministry [National Health Systems Resource Centre], NCOC, NIH [National Institute of Health] and provincial health departments have remained vigilant to detect the variant in Pakistan, ”said an official statement.
“The first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was reported on December 13 in Karachi. As of December 27, 2021, a total of 75 Omicron cases have been confirmed – 33 in Karachi, 17 in Islamabad and 13 in Lahore, ”he added.
The NIH further said 12 of those cases were associated with international travel.
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Competent authorities isolated the patients and initiated contact tracing to control the spread of the variant.
He added that vaccination and adherence to standard operating procedures (SOP) continued to be our best defense against Covid-19 despite the reported mutations.
“All government-approved Covid-19 vaccines available in Pakistan remain very effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization. The government is urging everyone to receive the two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as well as the booster dose in accordance with the eligibility criteria and process. The statement read.
Islamabad last week detected its first case of Omicron in a 47-year-old man, according to the NIH. The patient is said to have exhibited only minor symptoms, with contact tracing being carried out to find more cases.
On December 13, the Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH) confirmed the presence of the Omicron variant in an unvaccinated Covid-19 patient. In a statement, the hospital said the patient was in isolation at home and was doing well.
Last month, the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) warned that the Omicron variant was wreaking havoc around the world, especially in Europe, and would eventually affect Pakistan as well.
Addressing a joint press conference with the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, NCOC chief Asad Umar said the variant had spread across the world and that ‘it would be impossible to prevent him from entering Pakistan because the world was so interconnected.
Umar, also Minister of Planning, had urged the population to finish their doses of vaccination following the “very dangerous” variant. “The logical solution to thwart the new variant is full vaccination,” he added.
For travel, the authorities had divided the countries into categories A, B and C.
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On November 27, Pakistan banned travel from six South African countries – South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia – and Hong Kong after the variant appeared, placing them in category C.
He then added nine more countries to the list: Croatia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe.
The NCOC, which serves as the hub of the government’s unified effort against the global pandemic, said only “essential” travel from those countries would be possible, subject to an exemption certificate from a special committee.
He added that vaccination would be compulsory for all travelers coming to Pakistan. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test would be compulsory for Pakistanis and foreigners over six years of age. The PCR test must be performed 48 hours before boarding.
For Category B, which included Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, USA, UK, Thailand, France, Austria , Afghanistan and Turkey, all incoming passengers were to be fully immunized.
In addition, passengers from Category B countries were required to have a negative test report (PCR) (maximum 48 hours before departure). The NCOC said health authorities will also conduct random rapid antigen test (RAT) tests on passengers arriving from those countries.
For Category A countries, all incoming passengers must be fully vaccinated with the same PCR requirement as Category B countries.
Authorities are also reportedly controlling transit flights via RAT at airports on flights arriving via Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to “guard against entry of the Omicron variant.”