KP govt to increase Covid vaccination, testing amid Omicron surge

Published January 23, 2022
A man receives a dose of the coronavirus disease booster vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi on Jan 3, 2022. — Reuters
A man receives a dose of the coronavirus disease booster vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi on Jan 3, 2022. — Reuters

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to increase coronavirus vaccination, testing and contact tracing in Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi in light of the growing cases of Omicron variant.

The decision comes amid five fresh virus-related deaths and 590 cases in the province.

According to officials, deaths or hospitalisation surge hasn’t been seen among people infected with Omicron variant in the province as the virus has become too weak due to mutation.

They, however, said variant spread faster than Delta and others.

Provincial chief secretary Dr Shehzad Bangash held a virtual meeting with all deputy commissioners here on Saturday and instructed them to enforce the Covid-19 precautions and expedite the virus testing and vaccination alongside contact tracing of the infected people to stem the spread of Omicron cases.

KP records five new deaths, 590 cases

He directed the deputy commissioners of Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi to stay vigilant and stay in contact with the local health authorities for Covid-19 control and prevention and ensure that the infected people are proper isolated and vaccination rates increase.

The officials said the province had recorded 302 cases of Omicron virus with 70 per cent of them being reported in those three districts.

They said Covid-19 positivity rate was above 10 per cent in Peshawar against the province’s overall rate of little over three per cent.

The officials said though there was no immediate threat of the virus spread, the chief secretary warned the officials against showing laxity regarding the enforcement of anti-coronavirus measures and asked them to spearhead the vaccination campaign in their respective areas.

The meeting also discussed standard operating procedures.

The chief secretary directed the district administrations to ensure that only 500 fully vaccinated guests are allowed in wedding halls and that people follow SOPs such as social distancing, use of face masks and hand hygiene to disrupt the transmission of virus.

They were also told to collect the samples from the close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases for testing.

The meeting was informed about the revised testing targets in every district to know about the ‘clear situation’ of coronavirus and take precautionary measures at the earliest.

Officials said slow vaccination process also came under discussion in the meeting and it was informed that a 14-day campaign had been planned from Feb 1 in 22 districts for 90 per cent of the targeted population.

During the exercise, health workers will go from door to door with the help of the local communities to vaccinate people against the infection.

In the remaining 14 districts, a similar vaccination drive will begin on March 14.

Officials said 10 million people had been fully immunised against Covid-19, while 15 million people had received first dose of the vaccine.

They said the government hadn’t decided to close educational institutions over a surge in Omicron cases but the district administrations had been authorised to take decisions about school closures and in-person learning in light of the recommendations of the respective district health officers.

The officials said if a school recorded more than five cases, it should be closed for seven days.

“Omicron variant is less dangerous than others but the pace of its transmission is very fast. Also, its symptoms don’t appear like Delta and other types due to which the students can be potential sources of transmission. In this light, vaccination of students above 12 years of age is part of the strategy,” an official said.

Meanwhile, the health department said in a report that of the fresh deaths, two were reported in Peshawar and Abbottabad each and one in Swabi and Mardan each.

According to it, the deaths and cases totalled 5,974 and 184,455.

Of the cases, the number of recoveries is 175,695 (95 per cent). Fifty of them were reported in the last 24 hours.

The active cases total 2,786.

The department said a total of 435 new cases were reported in Peshawar, 25 in Mardan, 22 in Kohat, 20 in Abbottabad and 16 in Swabi and Nowshera each. A total of 9,572 coronavirus tests were done.

According to it, 204 patients were admitted to the hospitals and 13 of them were on ventilator. A total of 2,050 patients have quarantined themselves.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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