- NCOC head urges citizens to get themselves vaccinated immediately, says country has 2-3 weeks to reduce threat
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has warned that the new coronavirus variant Omicron will come to Pakistan, urging everyone to get themselves vaccinated immediately.
Addressing a presser alongside Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Monday, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) head talked about the new variant, saying that it was not possible from preventing Omicron from spreading as the world is so interconnected.
The minister said that the cases were only reported in those countries where people had not vaccinated themselves. Umar further said that the only solution was vaccination, adding that Pakistan has a few weeks to get its citizens vaccinated and prevent the new variant.
"This variant will come to Pakistan, and we have the next 2-3 weeks to reduce its threat," Umar stressed.
He said the NCOC has decided to ramp up coronavirus testing in high-risk areas, adding that vaccination campaigns will also begin in all provinces. The NCOC head stated that contact-tracing system would be revived as well.
Additionally, the minister announced that 50 million people have been fully vaccinated in Pakistan against the novel virus.
Umar's statements come as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk where covid-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas.
"Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," the WHO said. "The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high."
CAA notifies fresh travel ban
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Sunday notified a new travel advisory for Category-C countries after the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, Omicron. The CAA has enlisted 17 countries in the fresh travel advisory, South Africa, Hong Kong, Iraq, Namibia and Ukraine among them.
The passengers travelling from the category-c countries would require permission from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). “They would have to compulsorily provide evidence of full Covid-19 vaccination,” the CAA notified.
Sindh makes booster jab mandatory
Meanwhile, the Sindh government has decided to make booster jabs mandatory to curb the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Health Secretary Zulfiqar Ali Shah said that it has been decided to make the booster dose mandatory across the province because of the new variant.
He said that Pfizer vaccine will be administered as a booster jab. “The booster dose is being given only in Jinnah Hospital and DOW Ojha Hospital but it will be provided to the entire province and no charges will be taken for the booster jab," the health secretary said.
The Omicron variant
The variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa last week on Wednesday. The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.
In recent weeks, infections in South Africa have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the WHO said, pointing to worrying characteristics.
"Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs."
It said the number of Omicron cases appeared to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa. As for testing for the strain, the WHO added: "Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant."
Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a person coming from Malawi; Botswana; Belgium and Hong Kong.