PESHAWAR: Five cases of Omicron variant were detected for the first time in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as three more passed away in the province due to Covid-19 on Wednesday.

“The patients have no travel history, meaning that the Omicron transmission is of local nature and may infect more people in the communities,” said officials.

Health Minister Taimur Salim Jhagra said that public health reference laboratory at Khyber Medical University (KMU) detected Omicron cases for the first time in the province.

“As expected, this was only a matter of time. Our hospital system has coped with four surges and will continue to be ready. Our best defence is to vaccinate as per National Command and Operation Centre guidelines,” he tweeted.

KMU Vice-chancellor Prof Ziaul Haq confirmed that they five Omicron cases were detected at public health reference laboratory of department of health of the university and warned of more infections, especially among the unvaccinated people.

Patients belonging to Peshawar have no travel history

“All the confirmed patients belong to Peshawar district. They include four persons from the same family with their ages ranging from 10 to 50 years. Three of the infected persons are male and two are female with no travel history,” he said.

Prof Zia said that there was no travel history of the patients that showed that local community transmission had already begun and strict adherence to standard operating procedures was needed.

He said that they received samples from Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex. He urged people to get vaccinated as it was the only way to stay safe from the pandemic. People should continue to follow the safety guidelines along with vaccination as the new variant spread faster and entailed more mortalities and hospitalisations as compared to the previous ones, he added.

“We received five kits from World Health Organisation through National Institute of Health, Islamabad. Each kit has 92 reactions for Omicron detection. We are processing Covid-19 positive cases for Omicron, which is likely to spread further. Our lab scientists are testing positive Covid-19 samples,” he said.

Meanwhile, a report of health department said that the province’s death toll from the virus reached 5,938 while the number of cases was 181,573 with the detection of 36 new infections. Of the total infected people, 175,036 (96 per cent) patients including 27 recorded during the last 24 hours have already recovered. The province has currently 599 active cases.

Health experts said that Peshawar continues to remain epicentre of the pandemic as it reported about 50 per cent of cases and mortalities. The capital city has been reporting more deaths and cases on daily basis. The newly-detected Omicron patients also belong to Peshawar.

They said that Peshawar being the main city of the province was home to migrant residents of other districts, who were tested there because of the availability of testing facilities.

“The district administration and health department need to speed up activities to ensure adherence to SOPs as well as vaccination in view of the Omicron variant, otherwise, Peshawar will witness more infections in days to come,” they said.

A WHO report said that 175 patients were admitted to hospitals due to Covid-19 including 16 serious ones, who were on ventilators and 418 others were in quarantine in homes or elsewhere.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022

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