The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday said that the “new variant” of the coronavirus currently spreading in China poses a threat to Pakistan as well.

“The threat of the variant entering Pakistan is present because of lockdowns lifting in China and free travelling,” the nerve centre of anti-Covid measures said in a statement that was retracted later in the day.

The coronavirus strain spreading in China is a sub-variant of the highly infectious Omicron variant: BF.7 or BA.5.2.1.7, CBS News reported.

“Reports from China indicate BF.7 has the strongest infection ability out of the Omicron subvariants in the country, being quicker to transmit than other variants, having a shorter incubation period, and with greater capacity to infect people who have had a previous Covid infection, or been vaccinated or both,” the report said, adding that its symptoms were similar to that of other Omicron variants.

The NCOC said that the country was “fully prepared” to tackle and control any variant of Covid-19, adding that they were timely clamped down on in the past as well.

The statement said that the threat posed by the variant was low due to the vaccination campaign, adding that 90 per cent of the eligible population was completely inoculated.

The NCOC further said that 95pc of the population was administered at least one vaccine shot.

However, the National Institute of Health (NIH) later in the day said that “unverified news is circulating in the media regarding the threat of a new Covid-19 variant.”

The NIH said that the NCOC affirmed there was “no such threat” at present, adding that “the situation is being closely monitored.”

The NIH said that 13 new cases of Covid-19 and one death were reported in the last 24 hours, while the positivity rate was 0.3pc.

It added that 17 patients were in critical care.

China’s Covid-19 resurgence

Following widespread protests, the country of 1.4 billion people this month began dismantling its “zero-Covid” regime of lockdowns and testing that had largely kept the virus away for three years — at great economic and psychological costs.

The abrupt change of policy caught the country’s fragile health system unprepared, with hospitals scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies for drugs, and authorities racing to build special clinics.

Experts now predict China could face more than a million Covid deaths next year.

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