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EDITORIAL: The Covid-19 pandemic may have abated to a large extent but still poses a threat to public health. Last Monday, Pakistan reported its first case of a new variant of Omicron in a man arriving in Islamabad from a foreign country — unnamed for some inexplicable reason — who had tested positive at the airport. It is good to note that vigilance measures continue to be maintained at the ports of entry.

All those who came in contact with the infected person have been quarantined in their residences while the National Institute of Health (NIH) identified the new Covid strain as an Omicron sub-variant, which is highly transmissible, though, fortunately, less virulent. It spread quickly in the US, for instance, accounting last month for 29 percent of all new Covid-19 infections. The good news, however, is that all vaccinations are effective against it.

The virus is here to stay as an endemic disease for the next few years. According to University of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram, since the disease has become endemic it should be declared a normal disease. The challenge is to make it manageable. So far, despite its limited resources, Pakistan has confronted five waves of Covid-19 very well. There has been a significant drop in new cases during the last few weeks.

NIH data released on Monday showed that 64 new case of the infection were reported across the country in the previous 24 hours and the positivity rate was 0.49.

Meanwhile, more than half of the country’s population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and over a 100 million people have been fully jabbed, bringing the target of achieving vaccination of all citizens much closer. Encouraged by the progress, last March the previous government relaxed its control measures, allowing schools, restaurants, gyms, movie theatres and wedding halls to function normally.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) headed by former minister for planning, development and special initiatives in the ousted PTI government Asad Umar, was also shut down.

It was on May that prime minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the restoration of NCOC following the detection of sub-variant of Omicron. People seem to have started to ignore the SOPs. But the virus remains a clear and present danger. The arrival of the new fast spreading sub-variant of Omicron must not be taken lightly.

Although the vaccination drive goes on apace, fewer people find it worthwhile to get booster shots as well as the need to wear facemasks in public places, frequent hands washing or maintaining social distancing. It is about time the government got active to make life safe for the people. They must be made aware of the looming menace, and informed about exactly what precautionary measures they need to take to avoid getting infected by the new omicron sub-variant.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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