Coronavirus: Pakistan reports first suspected case of Omicron variant

Sindh health minister says genome test will confirm whether patient has contracted Omicron variant or not

M. Waqar Bhatti
Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words Omicron SARS-CoV-2 in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. — Reuters/File
Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. — Reuters/File

Pakistan reported its first suspected case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus Thursday, as per the Sindh Health Department.  

A private hospital in Karachi reported the first case of the variant in a 57-year-old female patient who is unvaccinated, confirmed Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho. 

The health department, on the other hand, disclosed that the patient does not have any travel history. 

As per health officials, the patient is not showing any symptoms of the virus and has been sent home to isolate. 

The Sindh health minister said that it cannot be said for sure whether the patient is suffering from the Omicron variant or not until and unless a genomic test is conducted. 

"We have not yet conducted a genome study but the way the virus is behaving, it seems likely that it is the Omicron variant," she said. 

She said that although the Omicron virus spreads rapidly, it has been observed that recent cases of infection in South Africa have not resulted in either severe illnesses or a high number of deaths. 

Dr Pechuho said it would take between one to two weeks for the genome study to take place, after which it can be said for sure whether the patient has contracted the Omicron variant of the coronavirus or not. 

"The virus spreads [rapidly]. This lady is also not vaccinated, which is why I would like to appeal to you all to get both doses of the vaccine," said the minister. 

"For those who are fully vaccinated and it has been six months since, please get yourselves a booster shot," she urged. 

"The suspicion is based upon some telltale mutations using PCR but final confirmation comes via whole genome sequencing," Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Health Dr Faisal Sultan said.

Speaking to Geo Pakistan earlier today, Sindh Parliamentary Health Secretary Qasim Siraj Soomro had said that it was imminent that Omicron would reach Pakistan as flights are continue.

"At the international level, several PCR tests were not positive in patients who were later diagnosed with Omicron infection. The new virus is highly mutated." 

Govt takes measure to contain Omicron variant threat

The national apex COVID-19 body had already taken measures to control the spread of the Omicron variant in the country and announced a massive vaccination plan that started from Dec 1.

In a meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) held earlier this month, it was decided to inoculate booster shots to immunocompromised people, healthcare workers and those aged over 50 years.

The forum had also tightened travel restrictions banning passengers from 15 countries including southern African nations and making COVID-19 testing and vaccination for inbound travellers from Category B countries.

It was also emphasised during the NCOC meeting that the Omicron variant is spreading fast across the globe and the only protection against it is vaccination and following basic SOPs, including the wearing of face masks, practicing social distancing and washing hands. 

The NCOC had agreed to take strict measures regarding the obligatory vaccination regime. It was decided that the vaccination teams should be deployed at various public spots to vaccinate the individuals on the spot.

The forum had instructed the provinces and authorities concerned to show a “zero tolerance” policy regarding an obligatory vaccination regime.