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Omicron: Pakistan reports first suspected case of new COVID-19 variant

A genomic study is being conducted which will confirm the variant, says Sindh health minister

December 09, 2021
File photo
File photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has reported the first suspected case of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Pechuho said Thursday.

"A genomic study is being conducted which will confirm the exact variant but for now getting both doses of the vaccine is the best precaution," she said in a video statement issued by the provincial health ministry.

"We have not yet conducted a genomic study but the way the virus is behaving, it seems likely that it is the Omicron variant," she said.  

Separately, the health department disclosed that the 57-year-old patient, with no travel history, is currently isolating at home, adding that efforts are underway to conduct contact tracing to confirm whether there are more infections or not.

The patient was unvaccinated and had no COVID-19 symptoms. Deputy commissioner East Karachi has been asked to impose a micro smart lockdown in the area.

"Four persons were tested to confirm Omicron presence out of which results of two returned positive while the report of one patient is awaited," the statement said.

The health official added that two of them have been sent home while the rest are still hospitalised. Only one person out of these four tested had been vaccinated.

NIH clarifies

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health  (NIH) has clarified that the sample is not yet confirmed to be Omicron via whole genome sequencing.

The NIH will obtain the sample for further testing.

Speaking to Geo Pakistan earlier today, Sindh Parliamentary Health Secretary Qasim Siraj Soomro said that it was imminent that Omicron would reach Pakistan as flights are continue.

"At the international level, several PCR tests were not positive in patients who were later diagnosed with Omicron infection. The new virus is highly mutated."

He added that the PCR kits that we have are focused on the Delta variant.

Steps taken to counter Omicron threat

The national apex COVID-19 body had already taken measures to control the spread of the Omicron variant in the country and announced a massive vaccination plan that started from Dec 1.

In a meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) held earlier this month, it was decided to inoculate booster shots to immunocompromised people, healthcare workers and those aged over 50 years.

The forum had also tightened travel restrictions banning passengers from 15 countries including southern African nations and making COVID-19 testing and vaccination for inbound travellers from Category B countries.

It was also emphasised during the NCOC meeting that the Omicron variant is spreading fast across the globe and the only protection against it is vaccination and following basic SOPs, including the wearing of face masks, practising social distancing and washing hands.

The NCOC had agreed to take strict measures regarding the obligatory vaccination regime. It was decided that the vaccination teams should be deployed at various public spots to vaccinate the individuals on the spot.

The forum had instructed the provinces and authorities concerned to show a “zero tolerance” policy regarding an obligatory vaccination regime.