KARACHI: Pakistan has detected its first suspected case of the new omicron coronavirus variant in the southern port city of Karachi, a provincial health minister and a district health office said.
Much remains unknown about the omicron strain, which was first detected in southern Africa last month and has been found in at least two dozen countries since. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to boost health care capacity and vaccinate people to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the new variant.
Pakistan reported 10 deaths and 350 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, according to a government count.
The country approved booster shots of coronavirus vaccines from December 1 and asked federating units to speed up their vaccination campaigns over omicron fears.
A notification issued from the office of the health officer in Karachi’s East district said a disease surveillance and response unit had “reported the first case of new COVID-19 ‘omicron’ on 8th December 2021 @ 07:00 pm.”
The statement said the omicron variant was suspected in an unvaccinated 65-year-old woman.
“The District Rapid Response Team East Karachi was taken on board immediately for Tracing, Testing and Quarantine activity, COVID-19 Vaccination activity and other preventive measures to control the spread of infection,” the notification said.
Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho confirmed that a suspected omicron case had surfaced in Karachi, the provincial capital.
“We are right now suspecting, its genome study hasn’t been carried out but the way that virus is behaving, it appears to be omicron,” Pechuho told Arab News, identifying the patient as a 57-year-old woman.
It was unclear if the woman mentioned by Pechuho was the same as reported by the district health office. A genomic study of the virus to confirm if it was the omicron strain would take up to two weeks, Pechuho said.
She said the patient was unvaccinated and requested the public to get inoculated as well as get booster shots if six months had passed since they were first vaccinated.
“This could save you,” she added.
The development comes days after Pakistan banned flight arrivals from nine more countries over fears surrounding the omicron strain.
The countries that Pakistan added to its ‘Category C’ list for travel, which means a “complete ban on inbound travel,” included Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe.
South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong were already banned late last month.