Pakistan reports first case of Omicron variant in woman from Karachi – Pakistan

Pakistan reported its first case of the new coronavirus variant Omicron on Wednesday, the Sindh health department said.

The provincial health department’s media coordinator, Mehar Khursheed, confirmed the detection of the first Omicron case in a woman from Karachi. She said the infected woman was admitted for treatment at Aga Khan University Hospital and was unvaccinated.

The 65-year-old has been discharged from the hospital and is currently isolated at home, according to a notification from the District Health Office in Karachi’s East district. She does not have a travel history.

According to the notification, the rapid response team was “taken on board immediately” for tracing, testing, quarantining, vaccination and other preventive measures to control the infection’s spread as per the guidelines of the National Command and Operation Centre.

The district’s health team also “immediately” contacted the woman’s family to take a detailed history and trace her contacts.

Two of the woman’s contacts, who also tested positive for the coronavirus but do not have the Omicron variant, are admitted to the Aga Khan University Hospital, the notification added.

The deputy commissioner of the district has also been requested to take the necessary action — micro smart lockdown — according to the notification.

‘Inevitable’ arrival

Last month, Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had sounded the alarm, saying that the arrival of the Omicron variant was inevitable and a matter of time.

“This [strain] has to spread in the whole world as we saw before that when a variant comes, the world is so interconnected that it is impossible to stop it,” Umar had said, adding that vaccination was the most logical solution to curb the threat.

On November 30, the Sindh government issued new guidelines — applicable from December 1-15 — to curb Covid-19’s transmission in wake of the threat posed by the new variant.

Covid-19 curbs in Sindh:

  • Indoor, outdoor gatherings allowed for vaccinated individuals. For Karachi, Sukkur and Sanghar the limit is 500 people for indoor events and 1,000 for outdoor. For the rest of the province it is 300 people for indoor and 1,000 for outdoor.
  • Indoor dining allowed for vaccinated people till 11:59pm. 70pc occupancy for Karachi, Sukkur, and Sanghar and 50pc for the rest of the province.
  • Outdoor dining is allowed for fully vaccinated citizens till 11:59pm.
  • Markets and businesses can function till 10pm while essential services can operate 24/7.
  • Shrines, indoor gyms and cinemas are open for fully vaccinated individuals.
  • 100pc attendance at offices with routine timings.
  • Amusement parks and swimming pools will operate at 70pc occupancy in Karachi, Sukkur and Sanghar and 50pc for the rest of the province.

The Sindh chief secretary had also directed the district administration to exhibit its full commitment to enforcing non-pharmaceutical interventions and take strict action against violators.

The Sindh health department had also earlier decided to inoculate all residents with a booster shot of Pfizer keeping in view the increased risk of transmission and re-infection posed by the Omicron variant.

Travel ban

Pakistan had placed a complete ban on Nov 27 on travel from six south African countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia — and Hong Kong in the wake of the variant’s discovery.

This travel ban was later extended to nine more countries — Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe.

Additionally, the NCOC placed 13 countries comprising United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey in category B.

All passengers from these countries need to be fully vaccinated, while everyone above the age of six must possess a negative PCR test report issued not more than 48 hours before boarding.

Omicron has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a “highly transmissible” variant — the same category that includes the predominant Delta variant.

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