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PMA asks govt to take spread of new Covid-19 variants seriously

By Our Correspondent
January 01, 2023

Despite the federal government’s assurances of being highly vigilant, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said on Saturday it was very much concerned over the spread of two new variants of Covid-19, Gryphon (Omicron XBB) and BF.7, the sub-lineage of the Omicron variant in China, India, Bangladesh, Japan, the US, Australia and Denmark.

“Although Covid-19 situation in the country is under control and positivity ratio of Covid-19 is 0.5 per cent, but due to the detection of new variants in some neighbouring countries, the government should become more vigilant and take all the required preventive measures to avoid spread of new variants in the country,” PMA Honorary Secretary General Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro said in a statement.

Dr Shoro maintained that PMA suggests the government implement strict preventive measures at airports and all other border entries. There should be mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for international as well as domestic travel. Passengers with symptoms should be isolated and their PCR tests should be carried out.

“The PMA further suggests general public to be prepared and even at this stage follow Covid-19 SOPs, wear mask whenever you go out, wash or sanitize your hands with regular intervals, avoid touching your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth. Keep social distance and avoid large gatherings. Avoid shaking hand or hugging. Avoid sneezing and coughing openly; use your arm rather than hands for covering your cough and sneeze. Do not share your paraphernalia like glass, plate, cup, towel, mobile, pen etc.,” he added.

The PMA official said people who are not vaccinated should immediately get vaccinated and get a booster dose after six months of your second dose to remain safe and prevented from the new variants and sub-variants of the Covid-19.

On Thursday, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho had said that owing to a surge in Covid-19 cases in China due to a new sub-variant, they had requested the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) to test all passengers coming from China at airports across the country and to quarantine those who tested positive for the viral infection.

“The new sub-variant of Covid-19 has spread in China and responsible for the surge in the cases. This variant has not yet reported in Pakistan, so we need to take precautionary measures to deal with it. We have written a letter to the NCOC to prepare new SOPs and guidelines and test every passenger coming into the country from China at the airports,” he told newsmen after inaugurating a paediatric cardiac high dependency unit (HDU) at the Civil Hospital Karachi.

The paediatric cardiac HDU has been established with the financial assistance and support from former students of Dow Medical College (DMC) of 1997 batch. The inauguration ceremony was also attended by Vice Chancellor Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Prof Saeed Quraishy, Medical Superintendent CHK Rubina Bashir, President Dow Class of 97 Dr Ghazanfar Qureshi, Dr Naheed Mahar, Dr Ammara Jamal and others.

The health minister maintained that efforts were being made to prevent the spread of new variants of Covid-19 in the country, because due to economic conditions, Pakistan was not in a position to deal with any new wave of the pandemic.

“Treating patients in the ICUs and HDUs requires millions of rupees on a daily basis, and in the present economic situation, so much spending is not possible by both the government and the people. The only option available is to delay the arrival of new variants in Pakistan and prevention by following SOPs.”

Pechuho said they have requested the NCOC to issue new SOPs and guidelines and suggested that all the inbound passengers on flights from China be tested for Covid-19 at airports. In case of positive results, the person will be quarantined until they become negative for contagion, she said, adding that they have proposed that serology tests of confirmed positive cases should be carried out.

“A huge number of false negative cases of the new Covid-19 variant are also being reported, so any person showing symptoms similar to the virus should be isolated and tested on PCR for confirmation,” she said while quoting their letter to the NCOC.

She added that they have also suggested mandatory administration of Pfizer booster doses to people who got inoculated six months ago, especially those above the age of 65.

“The establishment of isolation centres for positive cases and those with symptoms but showing negative tests is also one of our requests to the NCOC. Such people must undergo chest x-rays as a part of pneumonia investigation,” she said.