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New coronavirus variant reaches Pakistan

"The patients are currently under treatment at a private hospital in Karachi," says Sindh Health Department

By Web Desk
December 29, 2020
A representative image of COVID-19 virus.

KARACHI: The new coronavirus variant, which first emerged in the UK, has been detected in Sindh and the federal health authorities have been updated about it, it emerged on Tuesday.

According to a Sindh Health Department statement, the health authorities took 12 COVID-19 samples of the UK returnees for Genotyping out of which six were positive and three showed the new variant of the COVID-19 virus in the first phase.

“The Genotyping showed 95% match of the new variant from the UK. These samples will go through another phase of genotyping,” Sindh Health Department spokesperson Meeran Yousuf said, adding that the cases were identified in Karachi.

The provincial health department has informed Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan of the development.

Meanwhile, the statement added, the contact tracing of these patients is in process and their contacts are being isolated also.

What do we know about new strain?

The new strain, referred to by some experts as the B.1.17 lineage, is not the first variant of COVID-19 pandemic, but it is said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the UK.

After the British government officially announced the detection of the mutation, many countries, including Pakistan, have imposed travel bans on the UK.

Pakistan revises travel restrictions

Pakistan announced its updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) for travel restrictions imposed on inbound travelers from the United Kingdom, after cases of a highly new infectious strain of the coronavirus rose across the European country.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced Tuesday that Pakistani passport holders who have been issued the Business, Visitor or Transit visas by British authorities can return to the country provided they show a negative PCR test.

The test, however, must have been taken 72 hours prior to the start of their travel to Pakistan, said the aviation authority.

'No evidence virus is more severe'

Later in the day, the National Command and Operations Centre, in a statement said that there was "no evidence" so far to suggest that the infection caused by this variant is more severe.

The statement, highlighting the steps that NCOC had taken in this regard, said that travel from the UK to Pakistan had been limited and restricted.

The statement said that the viruses were being evaluated in selected laboratories for the presence of the variant.

"Based on this proactive effort, there are five samples — two at the National Institute of Health and three at the Aga Khan University hospital in Karachi — which may have the variant strain, based on preliminary analysis," it added.

These results have to be confirmed through further analysis — whole genome sequencing — which will take a few more days to complete, the statement said.

The NCOC and Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination are following this closely, it said.