KARACHI: The presence of new Covid-19 variants in the local population was officially confirmed on Friday with a warning that vaccination might not work against them.

“A genomic study carried out by Aga Khan University has shown presence of the UK-variant in 10 samples while the South Africa and Brazil variants (of Covid-19) were detected in two samples. Now, you can understand the kind of pressure that can come on hospitals, if people didn’t take care,” said Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho in a video message, while expressing concern over the situation.

Highlighting the nature of these variants, she explained that the UK variant spread fast, having 60 per cent higher transmissibility (as compared to the old variant) and 68pc fatality rate while both South Africa and Brazil variants had high fatality rate.

“More worrisome is the fact that the Brazil and South Africa variants are not vaccine responsive. That means that even if you get vaccinated, you can still get infected with these viruses and fall very sick. The vaccine we are currently using doesn’t provide protection against these variants.”

The minister urged people to avoid parties at home, going out unnecessarily and follow Covid-specific precautions outside home. “Please don’t do Eid shopping right now. Do it later. We are seeing hordes of people shopping around without masks in markets. This is alarming.”

She warned that if people continued to show negligence, they might put their life and that of their loved ones and the community in danger.

“We are thankful to God that we are not going through it now. But, the virus can spread and create a health crisis like that of India. Perhaps we are moving towards a lockdown. Humanity demands that we look after each other.”

It may be recalled that earlier two studies have shown similar results with one of them concluding that it’s mainly the new variants which are responsible for the third Covid-19 wave in the country.

Experts are of the opinion that unmonitored international flights and no quarantine on arrival in Pakistan from any country seemed to have led to a rapid introduction of the variants in Pakistan.

Against this backdrop, the Pakistan Medical Association has recently demanded that the federal government impose an emergency in the country and suspend international and domestic passenger flights, train and public transport services till it puts in place an effective Covid-19 screening and monitoring system at all entry points, especially airports.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2021

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