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EDITORIAL: As a new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, is playing havoc everywhere with some 900,000 cases reported every day around the world, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has warned of a fifth wave of the pandemic around the middle of February. That highly contagious variant has already surfaced in Pakistan with 78 cases registered during the last few weeks of December. Meanwhile, several countries have reported-breaking figures with the US registering as many as an average of 265,427 cases a day.

In Europe, more than 3.5 million cases were recorded in a week. Those worse affected included France, Britain, Germany, and Spain. According to a Harvard epidemiologist, the count was likely the “tip of the iceberg” with the true number of cases being much higher because of shortage of tests (or unwillingness of people to get tested). Although Omicron variant is said to be milder than the Delta one, it is far more infectious, prompting French health minister Olivier Veran to say when it comes to Omicron it is not just a new wave but a “tidal wave.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, it is the twin threat of Delta and Omicron variants that is driving what he described as a dangerous tsunami of Covid-19 cases. He has also been reminding the countries that have monopoly over production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines that the campaign to inoculate 70 percent of the people by mid-2022 is far behind target as almost 100 countries are yet to meet the original target of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations.

Thankfully for Pakistan, due to the hands-on approach of the National Command Operation Centre together with NHS, 46 percent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. Healthcare workers and people above 50 years of age are also being given free of cost booster shots. At this rate, the 70 percent safety threshold should be within reach by the middle of the 2022. Pakistan has also started producing Pakvac vaccination, its version of the single-dose CanSino vaccination, at the National Institute of Health with the help of China.

Even as WHO’s approval is still awaited, it should open up new avenues of progress for this country’s pharmaceutical industry considering that China has shared raw materials as well technology with this country — something wealthy Western nations and their drug companies remain resistant to despite urgent calls for partnering with less developed countries for local production of Covid-19 vaccines.

While Pakistan is on course on the immunisation front, a sense of complacency seems to have set in regarding of SOPs. Most people tend to believe Covid-19 is not a threat any more. The public awareness messages have also stopped appearing in media. It is imperative that in tandem with the vaccination campaign the government keeps reminding the people of the need to wear face masks in public places, and also of hand washing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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