Pakistan on Wednesday reported over 2,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours in the highest daily tally since September 23 as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spread across the country.
A total of 2,074 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours compared to 2,233 recorded on Sept 23.
Moreover, fatalities also rose to double digits for the first time since December 21 when 10 deaths were confirmed.
According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the positivity rate increased to 4.7 per cent. The number of active cases rose to over 20,000 while 628 patients were in critical care.
The countrywide breakdown during the last 24 hours:
- Sindh: 1,402 cases, 9 deaths
- Punjab: 445 cases, 2 deaths
- Islamabad: 165 cases
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 52 cases, 2 deaths
- Azad Jammu and Kashmir: 7 cases
- Balochistan: 3 cases
Gilgit-Baltistan did not confirm any new infections or deaths.
NCOC data also showed a worrying increase in city-wise positivity rates. Karachi, which is emerging as the epicentre during the current wave, recorded a positivity rate of 20.22pc, followed by Mirpur at 10pc. The positivity rate in Lahore was recorded at 7.15pc while Islamabad and Rawalpindi's were 4.56pc and 4.06pc, respectively.
The rise in cases is being driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus which has brought a fifth wave of the disease to the country.
A day earlier, Pakistan passed the milestone of administering at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to over 100 million people.
“Of these [100m people], nearly 75m are fully vaccinated, which is 33pc of total population and 49pc of eligible population. Work is not complete yet. Need to keep the momentum going,” an NCOC statement had stated.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar had announced the achievement and asked the masses to get themselves vaccinated at the earliest.
Karachi lagging in vaccination effort
Karachi is lagging in the vaccination effort, however, as it emerged on Tuesday that over 40pc of the population was still waiting for their first dose of vaccine. According to health department officials, the vaccination target was not being met as planned and 90pc of the patients currently being treated in the Covid-19 wards were unvaccinated.
Realising the growing number of Covid cases, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho chaired a meeting on Tuesday to share her concern over the fact that a significant number of people had not received their first dose yet.
The meeting decided a series of steps to make the vaccination campaign effective and that action would be taken against wedding halls, shopping malls and factories violating standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The meeting also decided that a door-to-door vaccination micro-plan would be made to vaccinate people, particularly housewives, at home for which lady health workers would be hired. The first phase of the drive would cover Karachi, Sukkur and Larkana and the second would cover Karachi again, Hyderabad and Shaheed Benazirabad.
In November, Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had sounded the alarm, saying that the arrival of the Omicron variant was inevitable and a matter of time.
Pakistan had subsequently placed a complete ban on Nov 27 on travel from six south African countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia — and Hong Kong in the wake of the variant's discovery.
This travel ban was later extended to nine more countries — Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe.
Additional reporting by Ikram Junaidi.