Health dept suspects deadly Delta variant in Lahore

Published July 14, 2021
In this file photo, a Pakistani volunteer checks the body temperature of a passenger to help detect coronavirus, at a railway station in Lahore on March 18. — AP/File
In this file photo, a Pakistani volunteer checks the body temperature of a passenger to help detect coronavirus, at a railway station in Lahore on March 18. — AP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab health department has processed 28 Covid-19 samples for genome sequencing, suspecting the presence of highly transmissible and deadly Indian Delta variant in the provincial capital.

Picked up from the government teaching hospitals of Lahore, including Mayo, Services and Jinnah, the samples were of the people carrying typical symptoms of Delta virus.

According to the health experts, the possible presence of Delta variant in the city poses a serious threat to the Lahorites.

An official privy to the information said the experts decided to process the samples for genome sequencing when the official data reported that the Wuhan variant was reemerging fast in Punjab.

Analyses 28 Covid samples from different hospitals to look out for the variant

He said according to the experts the Wuhan variant had almost been eliminated from the province due to the mass vaccination campaign. The virologists and other experts suspected that the new cases of the Wuhan variant could be the mutated form of Indian Delta virus and they decided to process the samples for confirmation.

For them, the official said, the travelling of the people between Lahore and Rawalpindi was a major concern, especially when the latter had reported over a dozen confirmed cases of the Detla variant in recent days.

Following the looming threats of fourth wave of the virus in Punjab, the health experts deeply analysed the official data of reported cases of the infections. The data showed that the number of positive cases of the UK variant in Punjab had decreased considerably across the province.

The official said the UK variant was dominating in Punjab during the recent peak of the third wave of the virus.

Quoting the latest surveillance data, he said, the province reported 80pc UK variant cases during the third wave from April to June.

Other cases were of South African and Wuhan variants, he said and added that recently the experts had analysed 38 samples in the reference lab of the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department. Of them, 28 samples tested positive for the Wuhan variant while others were of UK-based infection, the official said, adding that resurgence of such a large number of the Wuhan strain in Punjab had sent an alarm for the health authorities who immediately joined heads for analysis as the said infection was first time detected in Punjab last year. Later, it remained dominant during the first and second waves of the virus.

“During the meeting, the health experts believed that the 28 positive cases of Wuhan variant may be the mutated form of the Delta virus,” the official informed. Consequently, they extended scope of investigation and put on analysis a batch of 28 fresh samples for testing, he said.

Answering a question, he told Dawn that the Delta variant had become a global threat after wreaking havoc in India.

“It is now the dominant variant in the United States as it accounts for 51.7pc of positive Covid-19 samples,” the official said and added that the result was expected in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, Primary & Secondary Healthcare Secretary Sarah Aslam shared the achievement about provision of record vaccination facility in last 24 hours to maximise efforts for curtailing the Covid-19. She said 304,349 people were administered vaccine during the last 24 hours, the highest number of persons vaccinated in a day, so far.

While assessing the expected congregations on the upcoming Eidul Azha, she said 118 mobile facilities would administer vaccine to the visitors at the points of sacrificial animals. She was also alarmed at the Covid-19 infection rate increasing in Punjab and appealed to the people to get themselves vaccinated and follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Ms Aslam said 200 new cases of the virus were reported in Punjab during last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 348,509.

While the positivity rate was 1.3pc in Punjab, it had increased to 3.4pc in the provincial capital, she said.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2021

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