Samples submitted to determine if they carried Omicron variant
Five Pakistani passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport after arriving from Saudi Arabia. Authorities have moved them to a quarantine facility and sent their samples to the laboratory to determine the Covid-19 variant they were infected with.
The development comes amid heightened alert in view of the threat posed by the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia detected its first case of Omicron variant.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has intensified the rapid antigen testing (RAT) at airports and has enforced other precautionary measures.
According to the Sindh Health Department, five Pakistani passengers were tested positive for coronavirus during the RAT of passengers who arrived at the Jinnah International Airport via SV708 flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
They were moved to Sindh Government Hospital Korangi to quarantine. However, their samples have been sent to the Aga Khan University Hospital to determine whether they have been infected with Omicron.
The results are expected in three to seven days.
Pakistan has also set up the first Public Genome Lab at the Dow University of Health Sciences in collaboration with the World Health Organization to detect Covid-19 variants.
Dr Saeed Khan, who heads the laboratory, says now Pakistan can detect new variants of coronavirus through Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technique.
Speaking to SAMAA Digital, he said those who tested positive through the PCR test can be diagnosed with Omicron.” Initially, a short test will be able to identify this variant through data analysis if the infected person has a chance of Omicron,” he said.
Molecular Biologist, Dr Muhammad Zohaib told SAMAA Digital that the best facility for genome sequencing is present at the Aga Khan University Hospital and now the Dow University of Health Sciences also has one.
He said that various institutions including the University of Karachi are performing genome sequencing. There have been 50 mutations in the coronavirus so far and during genetic diagnosis, not only Omicron but also other mutations can be detected, Dr Zohaib said.
The NCOC chief Asad Umar has said that it is inevitable that the COVID-19’s Omicron variant will hit Pakistan because it is impossible to stop viruses from spreading in this world.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, he said that the NCOC is taking steps to delay the arrival and minimize the impact of the new variant.
“We are ramping up the number of coronavirus tests. We will conduct testing in the high-risk areas,” said Umar.
The Sindh government has, on the other hand, revealed that it has rolled out the administration of booster shots. They are available at Dow Ojha Campus and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Hospital.
The province has also begun door-to-door vaccination for which 600 health workers have been hired.
Earlier on Tuesday, CM Murad Ali Shah announced new curbs in the province: