12 suspected Omicron cases found in Balochistan: health official

Published December 22, 2021
A snapshot of Balochistan's daily coronavirus cases for the last 30 days. — Photo courtesy Covid.gov.pk
A snapshot of Balochistan's daily coronavirus cases for the last 30 days. — Photo courtesy Covid.gov.pk

Twelve suspected cases of coronavirus' Omicron variant were reported in Balochistan on Tuesday, according to a health official.

Head of Opera­tions Cell (Covid) Dr Naqibullah Niazi told Dawn.com that 32 cases had tested positive for Covid-19 out of which 12 cases exhibited signs of the Omicron variant. They were from the town of Kalat.

He said their samples were sent to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad, where the presence of the variant would be confirmed after gene-sequencing. Dr Niazi said the patients had been quarantined.

Pakistan reported its first suspected case of the Omicron variant on December 8. Following its gene-sequencing, Aga Khan University Hospital confirmed it as the new variant on Dec 13.

In a statement, the hospital had said the patient was at home and doing well. So far, no other patients at the hospital had been confirmed to have the Omicron variant, it had added.

On Dec 18, health department sources told Dawn that another case of the variant had emerged in a 35-year-old man in Karachi who had arrived from the United Kingdom on Dec 8.

“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,” an official had said on the condition of anonymity.

'Inevitable' arrival

Last month, Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had sounded the alarm, saying that the arrival of the Omicron variant was inevitable and a matter of time.

"This [strain] has to spread in the whole world as we saw before that when a variant comes, the world is so interconnected that it is impossible to stop it," Umar had said, adding that vaccination was the most logical solution to curb the threat.

Pakistan had placed a complete ban on November 27 on travel from six south African countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia — and Hong Kong in the wake of the variant's discovery.

This travel ban was later extended to nine more countries — Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe.

Additionally, the National Command and Operating Centre placed 13 countries comprising United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey in category B.

All passengers from these countries need to be fully vaccinated, while everyone above the age of six must possess a negative PCR test report issued not more than 48 hours before boarding.

Omicron has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a "highly transmissible" variant — the same category that includes the predominant Delta variant.

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