KARACHI: A suspected case of Omicron variant of coronavirus was reported on Friday, health department sources told Dawn.

They said the patient, a 35-year-old man, had no signs or symptoms of the illness when he arrived in Karachi from the United Kingdom on Dec 8.

They said he had apparently recovered from the illness and was currently under observation at the Qatar Hospital.

“His genome sequencing report stating that the infection appeared to be of Omicron has been sent to the National Institute of Health for further confirmation,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.

Patient has recovered and is under observation at Qatar Hospital

The passenger was suspected to have coronavirus infection in random sampling being carried out at Karachi Airport with the help of a rapid antigen test.

Source said the passenger was quarantined at an airport hotel from where he escaped on Dec 10 when his PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test of coronavirus infection came positive. His samples were sent for genome study.

“His genome sequencing report came positive on Dec 13 and subsequently a search was launched for him. He was located two days later. He is now coronavirus negative and under observation at the Qatar hospital,” he said.

About the standard operating procedure in place at the airport, health department sources said all passengers coming from Category C countries had to go through a rapid antigen test.

“In case the test comes positive, the patient is quarantined till he/she is negative. Since, we don’t have any direct flights from South Africa [which first reported the Omicron variant] right now, we check the travel history of passengers and carry out random tests.”

Pakistan had reported its first confirmed case of Omicron variant a few days back.

“The National Institute of Health, Islamabad has been able to confirm that a recently suspected sample [of a female patient] from Karachi is indeed the ‘Omicron variant’ of Sars-CoV2,” the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had said in a tweet.

“This is the first confirmed case but continued surveillance of identified samples is in place to identify trends,” the NCOC added.

It has also allowed Pakistanis to travel inbound from category C countries; the Netherlands, Hungary, Ukraine, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland, Croatia, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021

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