PESHAWAR: Health department issued new guidelines to enhance Covid-19 sampling in view of the spread of Omicron variant of the virus as 453 more cases were recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday.

The newly-diagnosed cases also include 44 people infected with Omicron.

A report issued by Khyber Medical University said that the province’s tally of Omicron infected people reached 189. So far, 328 Covid-19 positive samples have been tested. Among the infected persons, 119 are males and 70 females.

The new directives issued by health department to all the district health officers described the rise of Omicron virus as potential threat to the people, asking them to enhance Covid-19 testing with a view to get clear picture about the new variant and carry out contact tracing and impose smart lockdown in the areas reporting cases besides non-pharmaceutical interventions.

44 of 453 new patients in KP infected with Omicron variant

The instructions have been issued at a time when members of the rapid response teams (RRTs) have announced strike against non-payment of honorarium to them by the government.

Provincial Doctors Association (PDA) has expressed concerns over the health department’s inability to pay dues to the teams and feared that it would have adverse impact on the coronavirus testing in the province.

PDA secretary information Dr Salim Yousafzai said that members of the PRTs, including doctors and other staff, had not been getting honorarium for the last 11 months. He said that they should be paid the incentives to save the coronavirus sampling from being disrupted.

“The doctor, who acts as team leader, should be paid Rs4,500, epidemiologist Rs3,500 and support staff Rs2,500 per month. The arrears of the 11 months should be immediately paid o them,” he said.

Dr Salim said that 111 healthcare providers died of Covid-19 in the province including 71 doctors. He said that 4,572 health workers including 2,106 doctors were infected by the virus so far but they continued to work as frontline workers in hospitals, laboratories and samples collection centres.

Health department, which issued directives to all the districts, said that it had planned to process at least 15,000 Covid-19 samples per day and send the same to specified government laboratories as per the guidelines of National Command and Operation Centre.

The new instructions have asked the district health authorities to deploy rapid antigen tests (RATs) for all sentinel sites and confirm 30 per cent of the tests through PCR. The DHOs are told to ensure that all the tests are sent to the specified laboratories for the district concerned. However, the laboratories should accept samples from other districts too.

A health department report said that one person passed away of the virus in Kohat, taking the number of total deaths due to the pandemic since its outbreak in the province to 5,968. Coronavirus has so far infected 183,403 people and 175,602 (96 per cent) of them including 45 recorded during the last 24 hours have recovered from it. Active cases in the province are 1,833, including 1,064 recorded in Peshawar.

Peshawar reported 315 new cases including 20 Omicron patients. A total of 175 Covid-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals including 12 serious ones, who are on ventilator. Mardan and Kohat are recording most infections after Peshawar in the province.

Meanwhile, authorities have closed down Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar after detection of 11 cases.

The director of the institute, Dr Mohammad Mohsin Khan, said that students were asked to vacate hostel as their examinations would be rescheduled.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022

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