PESHAWAR: The Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, has begun the coronavirus testing for Omicron variant amid a constant decline in the infection-related deaths and cases across the province during the last one week.

A man lost life to the virus and 36 were infected with it in the province on Thursday, according to a government report.

The World Health Organisation has provided Covid-19 variant detection kits to the Public Health Reference Laboratory at the KMU to locally process the positive samples for ascertaining if there are other variants, lab scientists told Dawn.

They said they had so far sent 300 positive coronavirus samples to the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, for Omicron detection but no case of that variant was found.

Amid declining incidence, virus kills one, affects 36 more

The lab scientists said all cases were Delta variant’s.

“The province has to detect Omicron because it spreads very fast. It would go Delta’s way which has also spread rapidly in the province. However, there is no case reported so far,” a lab scientist said.

According to him, the WHO’s sequencing kitswill enable the province to promptly diagnose the various variants.

They said the NIH took time in testing the samples and dispatching results as it catered to the entire country.

“Now, we will be sending specimens to the NIH to double-check Omicron cases,” a source said.

He said the Omicron variant hadn’t been found in the province due to the people’s vaccination against the virus.

When contacted, Khyber Medical University Vice-Chancellor Prof Ziaul Haq said the university had got a state-of-the-art Covid-19 lab, which had carried out 90 per cent of the province’s total 3.8 million PCRs.

“With new kits, we have begun processing more samples for Covid-19 variants, including Omicron, which is very dangerous due to fast transmission,” he said.

Prof Zia said the Khyber Medical University had started from 40 coronavirus tests daily when the virus appeared in the province and later helped develop over 20 Covid-19 labs, including 12 in public hospitals and eight in private health facilities.

“Our faculty members have played a major role in developing labs, which can be utilised for detection of other diseases after the Covid-19 crisis is over. We require such labs to be able to fight future epidemics,” he said.

The VC said all tests were done free of charge by foreign-trained lab scientists.

Meanwhile, a health department report said only Peshawar continued to record Covid-19 deaths and cases in the province, where those numbers were on the decline.

According to it, of the total 5,927 deaths since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, 2,881 died in Peshawar, which is 48.61 per cent of the province’s total deaths.

The capital city has 66,411 Covid-19 cases of the province’s overall tally of 181,334. Out of the total cases, 96 per cent have recovered from the virus, while the active one total 568, which include 256 in Peshawar, the epicentre of the infection outbreak.

A WHO report said 175 coronavirus patients were admitted to hospitals and 15 of them were critical and on ventilator.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2021

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