Four more travellers test positive for Indian Covid-19 variant

Published June 1, 2021
In this file photo, a paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, a paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: The Sindh health authorities confirmed on Monday four cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus, taking the total number of such cases in the country to five.

All patients had returned to Pakistan from Gulf countries and tested positive at Karachi airport. Three of them had come from Iraq while another arrived from Muscat, Oman.

“One of them hails from Ghotki and the rest from the East and South districts of Karachi. They have been quarantined at government-designated Covid-19 facilities for the past 10 days while their family members are being tested and contacts being traced,” said deputy secretary-health Dr Mansoor Wassan.

Recalling how the cases of new Covid-19 variants were detected, Dr Wassan said the health department had been engaged in extensive surveillance at the airport following concerns over emerging variants of Covid-19 and had detected 53 positive coronavirus cases through rapid antigen and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing carried out over one and a half months.

Three passengers arrived at Karachi airport from Iraq and the fourth one from Oman

“Most of these passengers had arrived from the Gulf countries. We quarantined them all and later found that a significant number of these passengers were infected with Covid-19 variants of South Africa, the UK and Brazil. All passengers were asymptomatic and there were cases in which a passenger testing negative in the rapid antigen test was found Covid-19 positive in the PCR test,” he explained.

The four cases of Indian variant (B.1.617.2), he pointed out, were identified two days back when results of their samples sent for gene sequencing were received from the Aga Khan University Hospital.

“These passengers, all asymptomatic so far, had arrived on May 20 at the Karachi airport from two flights. We also traced individuals with whom they had contact during their travel and found 19 such individuals. Of them, one was found Covid-19 positive.”

The department planned to further expand their search for their contacts, he said.

First case of Indian variant goes home

Earlier, the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed the detection of the first Covid-19 infection with the Indian variant. The variant was detected in an asymptomatic Pakistani individual, aged 39 years, who was a resident of Azad Kashmir and had returned from a Gulf country.

The case was picked through a screening system put in place for international arrivals when he landed on May 8 and showed a positive rapid test conducted at the airport. As per standard operating procedures (SOPs), he was quarantined at a government facility where additional testing (PCR) confirmed the presence of the Indian variant.

The individual, however, had only mild symptoms during the quarantine period and was allowed to proceed home after completely recovering and upon completing mandatory isolation with further advice as per medical protocols.

“The investigation team traced his family and contacts in the district of his residence and obtained their samples, which came back negative. The NIH team is further tracing his potential contacts during the air travel to rule out possibilities of infections,” according to a statement by the National Command and Operation Centre.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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