KARACHI: More than 40 cases of the Delta variant — a highly virulent Covid-19 strain that has caused devastation in India a few months back — have been reported in the city during the current month.
Sources told Dawn the cases also involved a family of five residing in Lyari.
According to the health department data, a copy of which is available with Dawn, 24 cases of the Delta variant were reported last month. The tests were largely performed at the Aga Khan University Hospital and the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad.
“The surge in Covid-19 across the country, particularly in Karachi is alarming, which indicates that we are in the grip of a fourth wave. The Covid-19 unit at the Indus Hospital is full and the same is the case at other major tertiary care hospitals in the city,” said Dr Samreen Sarfaraz, a senior infectious diseases expert at the Indus Hospital.
Five members of a Lyari family, as many prisoners are among those tested positive for the highly virulent Covid-19 strain
She regretted that the crisis had developed at a time when “people are tired of wearing masks all the time. The compliance [with] the standard operating procedures (SOPs) is extremely low and Eidul Azha is around the corner. Huge crowds are thronging cattle markets in complete disregard to SOPs”.
KU facility confirms 35 cases
The sources said 35 cases of the Delta variant were detected in samples collected from June 25 to July 9 and tested at the Institute of Virology at Karachi University (KU).
The cases involved several areas of districts East and Central including Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Malir, North Karachi, Shadman Town, Federal B. Area, Surjani Town, Malir, Gulshan-i-Maymar, Buffer Zone, New Karachi and North Nazimabad.
The patients included a male and four female prisoners languishing in the Karachi central prison and women jail, respectively.
“A total of 229 randomly selected samples collected from June 25 to July 9 were genotyped at the institute, which accounts for 24 per cent of the total positive samples [received]. Of these samples, 15pc of samples were detected as Delta variants,” said Prof M. Iqbal Choudhary, director of KU’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS).
Twelve samples of the Delta variant were received from district East, while 23 were of district Central, he added.
“The hallmark of this variant is increased transmissibility and more disease severity. It might cause a significant reduction in neutralisation of antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination and reduce effectiveness of treatments or vaccines,” he said.
The variant identified last year in India was now spreading globally, raising fears of new coronavirus waves in countries which had reasonably controlled the pandemic, he pointed out.
“The World Health Organisation has designated the Delta variant as the variant of concern and is 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha (UK) variant. In the backdrop of large-scale violation of corona SOPs in Pakistan, this variant has the potential to affect a large population within a short period,” he warned.
Pechuho calls for SOPs’ implementation
Meanwhile, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho in a statement urged the public to strictly adhere to SOPs. The statement, however, mentioned only 35 cases of the Delta variant reported since June.
“As samples are being collected and tested continuously, laboratory results are being compiled. This variation in data only reflects this tedious process,” replied Atif Vighio representing the health department when asked about the variation in the data.
The first case of the Delta variant in Pakistan was confirmed by the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, in May this year. A month later, four international passengers who had returned from the Gulf countries to Pakistan were found Delta variant positive at Karachi airport.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2021