Pakistan fears Omicron spread in three weeks thumbnail

Pakistan fears Omicron spread in three weeks

Former Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has warned that cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 could surge in the country in the next three weeks.

His warning came as Balochistan reported 32 suspected cases of Omicron.

Speaking to SAMAA TV’s Mudassir Nazir, Dr Mirza said that Omicron spreads faster than other variants of Covid-19, but there was no indication that it causes more severe infections.

“However, I do want to ring one fear bell. Since Omicron could lead to faster spread of the [virus], I assume that in the next two or three weeks Pakistan may witness a surge in the number of [Covid-19] cases.”

What the government could do to contain cases? Dr Miza said that it would have to make some decisions which may include the imposition of lockdown or smart lockdowns or shutting down of some sectors.

Dr Zafar Mirza speaks to SAMAA TV.
Dr Zafar Mirza speaks to SAMAA TV.

Balochistan reports suspected Omicron cases

Meanwhile, Health officials in Balochistan have reported at least 32 suspected cases of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. The cases have, however, not been confirmed by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) yet.

Balochistan Health Department officials say the samples have been sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad for verification.

Dr Naqibullah Niazi, the in-charge of the Covid-19 operation cell, says all the suspected Omicron cases were reported from the Kalat district.

The patients have tested positive for Covid-19 and the symptoms suggest that they have been infected by the Omicron variant, he says. “But it is too early to confirm if it’s the new strain.”

The health department officials said that patients have been quarantined in Kalat and their samples have been sent to NIH Islamabad for verification.

“We are trying to track other people,” Dr Niazi added.

Doctors have been using genome sequencing to identify Omicron infections. The genome sequencing report for Balochistan’s suspected cases is expected in a few days, according to officials.

The rate of spread of coronavirus in Kalat has increased more than 5% after several months, officials say.

Pakistan confirmed its first Omicron case earlier this month. The patient was a woman hailing from Karachi. She had no recent travel history.

Vaccination imperative

Earlier, NCOC chief Asad Umar said that vaccines are imperative for protection against coronavirus and its new variant. He revealed that so far, 60 million Pakistanis have been completely immunised against Covid. The government has encouraged people to get their second dose as soon as possible.

On Monday, the NCOC approved booster doses for citizens of and above the age of 30 years. They will be administered the jabs at vaccination centers across the country. People who got both their Covid-19 shots six months back are eligible for the booster shot.

The vaccine will be administered free of cost. Only Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Pfizer will be given as booster shots.

After the development, these people will be eligible for booster shots:

  • People above 30 years of age
  • health workers
  • immunocompromised people

The decision was taken after a rise was seen in cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. It was first reported in South Africa and has now spread to multiple countries such as USA, UK, and Hong Kong.

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