PESHAWAR: The health department made Omicron test mandatory for those testing positive for Covid-19 at Pakistan-Afghanistan border and Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar, to detect the people infected with the new variant as three more died of coronavirus and 108 new cases were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday.

The director of public health, Dr Nekdad Khan Afridi, said that the samples of the people, who tested positive for Covid-19 at the border and airport, were taken and sent to Khyber Medical University for genome to detect Omicron variant of the virus in them.

“The move is in accordance with the guidelines of National Command and Operation Centre, issued to provinces to ensure stricter vigilance and monitoring to stop transmission of the new variant, which has so far infected 75 people only. Everyone is tested at the border and airport,” he said.

KP records three more deaths and 108 new cases of coronavirus

Dr Nekdad said that his department informed the respective district administrations and district health officers about the Omicron-infected people arriving from Afghanistan and other countries. He said that the infected people were quarantined in their native districts by the district administration.

He said that adherence to standard operating procedure was very important at that stage. He said that monitoring of arrival of people to Pakistan through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was jointly managed by Health Establishment Islamabad, DHO Khyber district and security forces on the border. He added that strategies and guidelines were issued by NCOC.

Dr Nekdad said that only four per cent of 3,200 Covid-19 beds in medical teaching institutions in the province remained occupied and 105 patients were in hospitals but people still needed to take precautionary measures and abide by restrictions enforced by government.

He said that Omicron spread faster and therefore was source of prime concern for health department at a time when general situation was under control. He added that people needed to get vaccinated at the earliest and adhere to social distancing measures and hand washing besides wearing face masks till the World Health Organisation declared that the pandemic was over.

He said that KMU, which pioneered Covid-19 testing in the province, was also conducting Omicron test and had helped health department to have better surveillance mechanism due to availability of scientific evidence.

“Testing, vaccination and surveillance continue. KMU has so far analysed 154 samples. Now we receive early results of positive patients. In the past we used to wait for weeks to get reports from National Institute of Health Islamabad,” said Dr Nekdad.

A health department report said the province’s mortalities due to the virus totaled 5,963 with three new deaths, all from Peshawar, during the last 24 hours. The provincial capital, which is home to 50 per cent of the people dying of coronavirus, has also recorded 53 new cases.

Of the overall 182,419 infected people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 67,117 belong to Peshawar, the worst-hit district of the province since the outbreak of the pandemic early in 2020.

The report said that 175,457 (96 per cent) patients, including 25 recorded during the last 24 hours, recovered from the Covid-19. It said that active cases in the province were 999 and 510 of the total infected people belonged to Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2022

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