Omicron detected in 50pc samples tested in Sindh as part of initiative to gauge strain's prevalence

Published January 3, 2022
A man receives a dose of a Covid-19 booster vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi, Pakistan. — Reuters
A man receives a dose of a Covid-19 booster vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi, Pakistan. — Reuters

Results of 351 Covid-19 tests conducted under an initiative by the Sindh government to determine the prevalence of the Omicron variant in the province showed that 175 samples — nearly 50 per cent — were infected with the strain, it emerged on Monday.

This information was shared during a meeting chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, according to a statement issued by the chief minister's office.

The meeting was told that among the cases found infected with Omicron, few had a travel history, predominantly from the United Kingdom, US, Dubai, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Nairobi and Angola, the statement said.

It added that a recent rise in the number of daily Covid-19 cases in the province was also highlighted.

"It was pointed out that during the last 30 days, [from] December 3, 2021 [to] January 2, 2022, the number of Covid-19 cases have started increasing," the statement read.

On December 3, it said, 261 new cases were detected and since then, the infection tally had been showing an upward trend, reaching 403 on January 2.

Moreover, the meeting was informed that between December 4, 2021 and January 1, 2022, 51 persons had died of Covid-19 in the province. Of them, 40 persons, or around 78pc, were on ventilator, six or 12pc were off ventilator and five or 10pc were at home.

To a question, the chief minister told the meeting that 29,579, 471 vaccinations had been carried out so far in Sindh.

He termed the pandemic situation "critical" and urged the health department to start an extensive Covid-19 vaccination drive. He further directed the health department to increase the number of tests being conducted across Sindh, the statement said.

The chief minister also urged the people of the province to adopt precautionary measures and warned of "strict measures" by the government otherwise.

The meeting was attended by Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Karachi Administrator and Adviser to the Chief Minister on Law Murtaza Wahab, Parliamentary Secretary on Health Qasim Soomro, acting Chief Secretary Qazi Shahid Pervez, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Sajid Jamal Abro and Health Secretary Zulfiqar Ali Shah among others.

Separately, a daily situation report issued by the Chief Minister's Office stated that the province had reported 339 new coronavirus cases and no deaths stemming from the virus over the past 24 hours.

It said the province's infection tally had risen to 481,949 and the death toll stood at 7,673.

Country reports over 700 new cases after two months

The results of the 351 test conducted by the Sindh government to gauge Omicron's prevalence in the province come as Pakistan reports more than 700 new Covid-19 infections after a gap of nearly two months.

During the last 24 hours, the country has reported 708 new coronavirus cases, making it the first time since October 30, 2021 that daily infections have exceeded 700. The country had recorded 733 infections on that date.

Meanwhile, the positivity rate has risen to 1.55 per cent, according to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

The rise in cases from the previous day's 594 came on the heels of Planning Minister Asad Umar warning that there was clear evidence of another Covid-19 wave as cases of the new variant, Omicron, increased — particularly in Karachi.

The minister said the recent surge in cases seemed to be due to the most transmissible variant of Covid-19, Omicron.

“Genome sequencing is showing a rising proportion of Omicron cases, particularly in Karachi. Remember, wearing a mask is your best protection,” he tweeted on Sunday.

The federal minister's emphasis on Karachi followed the imposition of a micro-smart lockdown in the city's Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Block 7 on Friday, after 12 members of a family tested positive for the Omicron variant.

Earlier today, the administration of booster shots was also started for people aged over 30 years who had been fully vaccinated at least six months ago. On Dec 20, the NCOC had allowed booster shots for people aged over 30 years because of Omicron's spread to over 100 countries, including Pakistan.

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