As Covid-19 cases resurge across Pakistan, the positivity rate in the country's financial capital, Karachi, reached alarming levels to come in at 21.23 per cent on Thursday.

Data from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) showed that on June 16, 53 people in the metropolis tested positive for the virus. The number of cases, however, more than doubled within a week as 138 people tested positive in the city on June 22 (Wednesday).

According to the NCOC, Karachi has reported the highest number of Covid cases from across the country, while the second-highest cases were recorded in Abbottabad where the positivity was 8.7pc. Other cities that reported an infection rate of over 2pc included Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir's Mirpur.

Overall, the country detected 268 new Covid cases — marking the second day of more than 200 daily cases — on Thursday and the nationwide positivity rate stood at 2.14pc. In the last 24 hours, one person lost their life from the virus.

NCOC meeting

At an NCOC meeting yesterday, it was noted that 85pc of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated and 93pc had been partially vaccinated. Besides, 100pc eligible population in Sindh had been fully vaccinated.

The meeting, which was chaired by Federal Minister of National Health Services (NHS) Abdul Qadir Patel in Islamabad, advised all provinces and regions to administer booster doses on a priority basis to further improve protection against Covid transmission.

“In view of the global pandemic situation, the Central Health Establishment (CHE) should strictly monitor the health status of incoming passengers at points of entry. The CHE will be strengthened to enhance the functionality,” Patel said.

The CHE monitors health-related developments within and outside the country and issues advisories and takes steps to stop the spread of diseases.

The minister further emphasised the importance of precautions, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, especially in crowded places. He also highlighted the need to strictly follow the guidelines for managing markets for Eidul Azha.

Fears of sixth wave

Speaking to Dawn earlier, Dr Saeed Khan, a professor of molecular pathology heading the Sindh Public Health Lab at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), said a new variant — BA.5 — fast spreading in other countries had been reported in Pakistan, including Karachi, and now it was being locally transmitted.

“While other [old] sub-variants of Omicron are also being reported in Karachi, this one is more contagious since it’s a new one and has been cause of concern in other parts of the world,” he said, adding that unvaccinated, the elderly and people with compromised immunity were particularly vulnerable.

“If we don’t pay heed to medical advice and don’t start implementing Covid-related preventive measures seriously, the spike in cases might turn into the sixth wave of coronavirus,” he said.

According to Dr Khan, there are multiple reasons behind the fast spread of the variants. “They are genetically different, which help them transmit fast. Other reasons include waning of vaccine immunity after six months, reluctance on part of the general public to get a booster shot and absence of Covid-19 preventive measures at public places.”

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