NCOC reiterates calls for eligible citizens to get vaccinated against coronavirus to boost protection from adverse effects of the pandemic
Pakistan on Monday confirmed that a recently suspected coronavirus case from Karachi was of the Omicron variant, stressing that this was the first confirmed case of the new mutation that has been sweeping through Africa and Europe for the past month.
“The National Institute of Health, Islamabad has been able to confirm that a recently suspected sample from Karachi is indeed the Omicron variant of [COVID-19],” read a statement posted on Twitter by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC). The forum, which oversees the national response to the pandemic, stressed that this was the first confirmed case of Omicron, but “continued surveillance of identified samples” is continuing to identify prevailing trends.
“In wake of recent confirmation of Omicron in Pakistan, the importance of getting vaccinated to protect from serious effects of existing and new variants is further highlighted,” it said in a subsequent Twitter post. “Please get yourselves completely vaccinated,” it added.
The NCOC confirmation followed a statement by Karachi’s Aga Khan University Hospital, which announced that Omicron had been detected in a patient through gene-sequencing. It said that the patient was being treated at home and had not reported any dangerous symptoms, adding that thus far no other patients at the hospital had displayed symptoms of the Omicron variant.
Last week, the Sindh government had announced that a suspected case of Omicron had been found in a 57-year-old unvaccinated woman who had no recent travel history. It had stressed that while Omicron was suspected, it could not be confirmed until genomic surveillance had been conducted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that while the Omicron variant causes less severe symptoms than the Delta variant of last year, it is more transmissible and reduces vaccine efficacy. As of Dec. 9, Omicron had spread to 63 countries, with health experts cautioning that more study was needed to determine whether the variant evaded immune response, had higher transmissibility, or a combination of both.
Last month, Planning Minister Asad Umar—who also heads the NCOC—had told media that while authorities could limit its spread, and delay its arrival, there was no chance of preventing the Omicron variant from reaching Pakistan. He had emphasized that all eligible citizens should get fully vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid the worst effects of the new variant, and had announced that the government would commence free booster shots for all citizens over-50 and those with compromised immunities to protect them from the new threat.
Pakistan has placed a complete ban on inbound travel from 15 countries—South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe—in addition to Hong Kong in a bid to reduce the entry of Omicron. It has also initiated rapid antigen testing at airports for all foreign arrivals.