KARACHI: As the city of Karachi is leading the surge in Covid-19 cases, including the new Omicron variant, health officials hinted at taking strict measures including bringing more localities under smart lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, it emerged on Tuesday.

In the last 24 hours, out of total 464 new Covid-19 cases reported in Sindh 339 have been detected in Karachi alone.

The situation has compelled the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) to ask the federal and provincial governments to gear up anti-Covid vaccination efforts and legislate on coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) that would help enforcement of preventive measures.

So far, Pakistan has recorded over 300 cases of the Omicron variant, most of which have been reported in Karachi.

Karachi vaccination ratio stands at around 40pc

“At this stage, our priority is to gear up anti-Covid-19 vaccination measures including renewed restrictions on unvaccinated people and enforce implementation of SOPs related to coronavirus,” said a health department spokesperson when asked about government’s plans to tackle the growing number of cases.

The general public, he said, must understand that vaccines provided a level of protection against the Omicron variant, which had shown to be less severe as compared to the Delta variant. But, it had the tendency to spread faster.

He said that the government might opt for bringing more affected areas under smart lockdown, if needed. “Right now, only one area in Gulshan town is under smart lockdown. It will be taken off as soon as the family members are tested negative for Covid-19.”

He, however, said that no proposal to bring a larger area or the whole city under lockdown came under discussion thus far.

148 Omicron cases in city

According to a list prepared by the health department that shows both confirmed and suspected cases of the Omicron variant in the city, a total of 148 cases have been reported in the city so far.

District South is leading the surge with 58 cases followed by cases detected in international passengers (38 cases), District East (32 cases). The districts of Malir, Korangi, West and Central reported two cases each.

The list also includes nine cases marked as ‘no contact’. One foreigner was also among the infected persons.

Sources said the first dose coverage for Covid-19 vaccine had increased from 45 per cent to 55pc in the province whereas that of double dose from 30pc to 40pc. The vaccination ratio in Karachi was also stated to be around 40pc.

“The Covid-19 positivity ratio is rising fast. Our fear that Omicron that spreads faster but appears to be less lethal might mutate here, making the situation more challenging for the health system,” warned Dr Qaiser Sajjad of PMA.

He called for setting up a state-of-the-art virology laboratory in the public sector.

He urged the government to legislate on coronavirus-related SOPs as the infection would continue to hamper life in coming years. Restaurants, business centres should be sealed on violation under the law.

Two die overnight

Two more patients of Covid-19 died overnight lifting the death toll to 7,675 and 464 new cases emerged when 15,003 tests were conducted.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said currently 6,474 patients were under treatment, of them 6,278 were in home isolation, 42 were at isolation centres and 154 were at different hospitals. He added that the condition of 148 patients was stated to be critical, including 16 shifted to ventilators.

Of the 339 cases detected in Karachi, 144 from district South, 139 East, 30 Central, 13 West, 12 Korangi and one cases detected in Malir.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

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