Govt advises vigilance in view of new Covid variant

Published May 11, 2022
Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel  chaired a special session at the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre on Tuesday to review the current situation of the coronavirus. — Photo via NHS Twitter
Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel chaired a special session at the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre on Tuesday to review the current situation of the coronavirus. — Photo via NHS Twitter

ISLAMABAD: On the directions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the federal and provincial health authorities as well as representatives of the army gathered on Tuesday to discuss the situation emerging after the first case of a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 was detected in the country.

The meeting created an impression that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which dealt with Covid-19 for two years, had been revived. Electronic media also reported the news, attributing it to the prime minister and the information minister.

However, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) clarified that the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre at National Institute of Health (NIH) had already replaced the NCOC and will continue functioning till eradication of the pandemic.

On Monday, the NIH had announced that a new and more transmissible variant of Covid-19 was reported in a person who had a foreign travel history, and advised people to resume wearing masks in crowded places and get themselves vaccinated at the earliest. The new Omicron sub-variant is called BA.2.12.1 and is causing a rise in the number of infections worldwide.

According to a statement, as Omicron had triggered the fifth wave of coronavirus in Pakistan, Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel on the directions of the prime minister chaired a special session at the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (NIH) to review the current situation of the virus.

The session was attended in-person and online by senior provincial officials, the federal health secretary and health director general as well as representatives from the armed forces.

“The patient had mild symptoms and was isolated at his home immediately. His family has tested negative. During a pandemic, new variants of a virus continue to appear,” the meeting was informed.

“The situation is under control, but we must stay vigilant,” the minister said while addressing the meeting. He pledged all-out support to the provinces and appreciated their efforts for responding to Covid-19 cases.

The NIH team presented data and numbers, while its Executive Director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram gave an overview of the Covid-19 situation in the country. “Only one case of the new variant has been detected recently and we are closely monitoring its spread,” he said.

Health Secretary Amir Ashraf Khawaja elaborated on the daily process of data reporting and documentation.

The provincial health leadership also briefed the minister on the progress on vaccinations and future plans to ensure maximum coverage. Non-pharmaceutical interventions and other measures to curb the spread of the virus were discussed, and a decision will be made according to its spread.

Health Director General Dr Rana Safdar emphasised staying vigilant and keeping a close eye on the virus. He stressed the need for increased vaccinations and administration of booster doses.

“The federal health leadership will stand shoulder to shoulder with all the efforts of the ministry,” Minister Patel vowed. He also emphasised keeping a close eye on the current Covid-19 situation and the emerging variants of concern.

Since the pandemic broke out, over 1.5 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in Pakistan and over 30,000 lost their lives to the virus.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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