Genotyping of three of 12 U.K. returnees has showed 95 percent match with new variant, says provincial health department
The Sindh Health Department on Tuesday announced Pakistan’s first confirmed cases of a new, more infectious strain of the novel coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom.
In a statement, provincial health authorities said that samples had been taken from 12 U.K. returnees for genotyping, adding that six of those had tested positive for COVID-19, with three showing the new variant of the virus.
“The genotyping showed 95 percent match of the new variant from the U.K. These samples will go through another phase of genotyping. Meanwhile, the contact tracing of these patients is in process and their contacts are being isolated also,” it added.
Health experts have been sounding the alarm about the new variant’s presence in Pakistan for the past few weeks, stressing that unrestricted travel with the U.K. could aid in its spread. Last week, Pakistan implemented travel restrictions for all inbound travelers from Britain to curb the spread of the new variant, mandating all travelers to secure negative PCR tests both prior and after their flights.
The new strain was identified in southeastern England in September and has been spreading throughout the country since then, according to the World Health Organization. The global health body has stressed that the new variant appears to be no deadlier but has noted that it has “increased transmissibility.” A study has claimed that, on average, it is 56 percent more contagious, and could boost hospitalizations and deaths because of the wider spread.
To concerns of the mutation reducing the efficacy of vaccines, WHO has said it is too early to offer a concrete response, but have noted that the mutations do not appear to be extensive enough to warrant significant concern.
Pakistan is currently in the midst of a second wave of the novel coronavirus, with authorities urging the public to adopt preventative measures to prevent the country’s health infrastructure from becoming overburdened.