ISLAMABAD: The surge in Covid-19 infections has set alarm bells ringing as the country reported over 2,000 cases on Wednesday after a gap of more than 100 days, while the positivity rate of Karachi surpassed 20 per cent.
A member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19, Dr Javed Akram, said the surge was not unexpected, as people were suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and had given the virus every chance to transmit and mutate.
He urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as the ‘Deltacron’ variant, which includes qualities of both the Delta and Omicron variants of coronavirus, has been reported in Cyprus and it will sooner or later reach Pakistan.
In a positive development, President Dr Arif Alvi announced that he had recovered from Covid-19.
According to data from the National Command Operation Centre, 2,074 cases and 13 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours. The national positivity rate reached 4.7pc.
Before this, over 2,000 cases were reported on Sept 24, 2021 with 2,060 infections. Moreover, the country has been reporting single-digit deaths since Dec 22; 10 people were reported dead on Dec 21 and 14 on Dec 16.
According to a document available with Dawn, Karachi’s positivity rate on Wednesday reached 20.22pc, Mirpur’s 10pc, Lahore 7.15pc, Islamabad reported 4.46pc and Rawalpindi 4.06pc.
On the other hand, President Alvi announced that he had defeated the virus.
“With the grace of Allah, Al Rahman Al Raheem & Al Shafee, and with your prayers, which I believe always have an effect, I have come out of Covid-19 Omicron version, and have tested negative. Al Hamdulillah,” he tweeted.
Dr Javed Akram told Dawn that the surge in Covid-19 cases was not unexpected as the masses were not taking the Omicron variant, which is said to be 10 to 12 times more transmissible, seriously.
“It seems that people have been facing pandemic fatigue due to which they are not ready to sacrifice their wishes/desires rather they are willing to put their lives at stake. Wedding halls remain full and no one, including the bride and groom, wears a mask. On the other hand, guests more than double the capacity of the halls are invited. I suggest that if a hall has a capacity of 100 people, only 30 should be allowed in,” he remarked.
Dr Akram suggested that wedding ceremonies should be held according to religious teachings and only 20 to 30 people allowed at each event. Moreover, instead of serving meals inside the halls, lunch boxes should be handed out to people as they leave, he added.
“I suggest people wear masks and control co-morbidities (more than one illness) such as sugar and blood pressure levels. They should not go out in extreme weather such as early morning and late night. They should ensure that their drivers, watchmen, cooks and maids are vaccinated because they can become carriers of the virus,” Dr Akram urged.
“Those who have been vaccinated should get booster shots. People should also maintain their vitamin D levels as it improves immunity. As this new variant has 10 to 12 times more transmissibility, people should increase precautionary measures by 10 to 12 times also. We should not forget that the cases will steeply increase in the coming days,” he warned.
While replying to a question, Dr Akram said that ‘Deltacron’, which has 11 mutations and qualities of both Delta and Omicron variants, has been reported in Cyprus and as the world has become a global village, it will reach Pakistan in no time.
“I suggest that every person should be vaccinated across the globe because otherwise the virus will continue to mutate as per the natural phenomenon and will actively transmit. Unfortunately, only 6pc people have been vaccinated in Africa so more variants can emerge there and will spread across the globe,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre has abolished centralised quarantine immediately.
It said: “Centralised quarantine arrangements for Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) positive for inbound passengers have been abolished forthwith. Now, all the passengers detected as positive in RAT on arrival at airports/border terminals will self-isolate themselves for 10 days (home quarantine). All the inbound passengers who are currently quarantined at centralised locations be shifted accordingly.”
The NCOC said that remaining protocols of inbound testing policy will remain in place in the light of the latest decision.
It has directed to convey to the respective provincial and district administrations and to devise a mechanism to ensure implementation of home quarantine of positive passengers for 10 days.
Earlier this month, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had issued a guideline under which RAT had been made mandatory for all passengers arriving from Europe and the minimum 50 per cent passengers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar had to undergo RAT on arrival.
A CAA spokesman had said that the RAT test had been made mandatory for passengers arriving from Europe due to emerging cases of omicron whereas such cases were less reported in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
He said RAT positive cases would be quarantined for 10 days followed by the PCR test on 8th day.
Pakistanis with expired visas or illegal immigrants/deportees, medical conditions/issues, pregnant women and passengers between 15 to 18 years of age (exempted till February 2022) who are unable to get themselves vaccinated abroad (all categories) are exempted from mandatory vaccination after producing valid proof to airline/immigration authorities before boarding.
Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022