Nation special report
LONDON: The UK government has announced a new package of genomic sequencing support to help Pakistan’s fight against new variants of COVID-19.
Through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) programme Pakistan will be able to draw on UK expertise and support to detect quickly new, and potentially more dangerous, variants of COVID-19.
The UK is a world leader in genomic sequencing for COVID variants and the second largest contributor to the international database for the variants. Through an agreement reached between UK’s Public Health England (PHE) and Pakistan’s National Institute for Health (NIH), the UK will share its expertise and provide reagents to increase genomic sequencing capacity in Pakistan. The support will also include technical advice on bio-informatics workflow and technical processes.
The British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr Christian Turner said: Sharing world class UK science expertise with Pakistan will help detecting new COVID variants of concern and keep fighting this pandemic.
This shows the best of UK-Pakistan friendship and our commitment to back Pakistan in building back better from the impacts of COVID-19.
“The UK is a science superpower and it is right we support the worldwide fight against COVID-19,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
“We are sharing the UK’s genomics expertise with Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, and the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, boosting disease surveillance and helping countries identify, track and respond to COVID-19 variants, which are of concern globally.”
British health officials said robust genomic surveillance was vital to identify new variants of the novel coronavirus and then counter them.
Public Health England has already sequenced samples from Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Albania, and the program will be extended.
“New SARS-CoV-2 variants are a major threat and it is important to remember that in a global pandemic, no country is safe until all countries are safe,” said Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency.
Pakistan has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases since June 5, when 1,629 cases were reported.
Over the last 24 hours, the country reported 1,683 infections and 24 deaths while 50,531 tests were conducted. The total number of cases has risen to 967,633 and the death toll is 910,609.
The positivity rate was recorded as 3.33 per cent.
Breakdown of cases and deaths reported during this period:
Sindh: 1,075 cases, 16 deaths
Punjab: 167 cases, 7 deaths
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 128 cases
Islamabad: 104 cases
Azad Jammu and Kashmir: 87 cases, 1 death
Gilgit-Baltistan: 65 cases
Balochistan: 57 cases
Oman suspends flights
Oman on Thursday suspended until further notice air travel from 24 countries, including Pakistan and India, the Sultanate’s pandemic response body said.
The other countries in the list are India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Tunisia, Lebanon, Brunei, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, Sudan, Iraq, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Colombia, Nigeria, Libya.
The flight curbs have been introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus into the country’s borders, as all of the countries on the list are currently tackling outbreaks caused by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.
“Arrivals to the Sultanate from 24 countries have been suspended until further notice in order to preserve the safety of everyone and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the Gulf state’s coronavirus task force tweeted.
The country of 5 million has reported 1,824 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total to 278,560 with 3,339 deaths.
Nearly 40 percent of Oman’s population are expatriates, coming mostly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and other countries on the travel ban list.