PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa detected nine more Omicron cases on Tuesday as government ordered escalation of vaccination process to cope with the new variant effectively.

So far, 22 Omicron cases have been reported in the province, including 19 from Peshawar, the epicentre of Covid-19 since its advent in 2020.

In view of the emergence of the new variant, a meeting was held here on Tuesday with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in the chair to review the situation. The meeting directed the authorities concerned to expedite pace of inoculation, especially in surrounding villages of Peshawar where vaccination was not up to a desired level.

A statement said that the meeting attended by Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, Chief Secretary Dr Shehzad Bangash, Health Secretary Mohammad Tahir Orakzai and Director-General Health Services Dr Niaz Mohammad discussed in details coronavirus situation with main focus on entry of Omicron to the province.

CM directs officials to expedite pace of vaccination

The participants of the meeting were briefed about capacity of hospitals, vaccination and adherence to Covid-19 precautions. They expressed satisfaction over the overall situation and said that there was no hospitalisation of Omicron-infected people so far and the patients were being managed in line with the laid down protocol.

On the occasion, the meeting was told that Covid-19 positivity rate ranged from 0.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent in the province during the last two weeks and more than 10,000 samples of suspected people were tested per day.

The province has adequate number of beds in hospitals that include 1,785 low flow oxygen beds, 1,380 high dependency unit beds and 339 intensive care unit beds besides availability of 339 ventilators reserved for the patients of coronavirus.

A total of 23.50 million doses have been administered in the province so far and the number of fully vaccinated people is 10.36 million while around 9.1 million second doses of vaccine have been administered to people. Sixty per cent of the above 12 years people in the province have been administered the jabs.

Health officials informed the meeting that strategies were put in place to improve immunisation against Covid-19. They said that regular meetings with district administrations and district health officers were being held to review progress on vaccination.

However, the chief minister directed them to further expedite the pace of vaccination with special focus on the adjacent areas of provincial capital where most of cases were being reported. He instructed them to chalk out a realistic plan to achieve 100 per cent vaccination target and make the people safe from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Public Health Reference Laboratory (PHRL) in Khyber Medical University on Tuesday detected nine more cases of Omicron including eight from Peshawar and one from Karak district. The patients include eight men and one woman aged from 15 to 65 years.

All the Omicron cases have been tested in KMU, which has started variant analysis in collaboration with World Health Organisation and National Institute of Health, Islamabad. Samples of positive patients from different districts are sent to KMU that are tested and confirmed through special PCR kits and sequencing.

Officials said that sequencing of Covid-19 variants took more than a week but they gave results of tests to people within two to three days.

“When a sample tests positive for Covid-19, we test its suitability for variant analysis. We select about four to five samples from PHRL in addition to positive samples sent from our network laboratories from other hospitals,” they said.

Officials said that they were trying to reduce sequencing period of confirmed cases to 24 hours.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2022

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