ISLAMABAD: For the first time in over three months, Pakistan has reported more than 1000 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. Experts believe that this new wave of infections is primarily driven by the new strain of virus, Omicron.
The National Command and Operation Centre, the coordinating body for Covid-19 response in Pakistan, released the latest statistics in its daily tweet. As per the NCOC, from 46,585 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, 1085 turned out positive. With this the positivity ratio has doubled. A week ago, it was just 1 per cent – today it climbed to 2.32 per cent.
Earlier, the head of the NCOC, Planning Minister Asad Umar warned of the fifth wave and appealed to the citizens to follow the precautionary measures to curtail the spread of the virus. Citing the sharp rise in cases across the US, UK and South Africa, he asked the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the impact of Omicron.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Asad Umar said that 60pc of Omicron cases were being reported from Karachi and Lahore, while the country’s financial hub had witnessed a 940pc increase in cases in just two weeks. Punjab reported a 185pc increase in Covid cases over the last 10 days, he added.
According to the countrywide breakdown, Sindh has reported the maximum number of 578 cases, while Punjab has followed closely with 360 new cases. Islamabad reported 104 cases, KPK: 36, AJK: 6 and Balochistan just one case.
Across the world, Omicron has skyrocketed the number of daily cases, as nations report record breaking figures. This part of the region had till now been relatively insulated from the fresh upsurge – but now, it seems things have begun to change as India too reported its highest cases, over 90,000 in over 200 days.
The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan rang alarm bells as he claimed that the public health system may come under considerable stress in the next few weeks. While mentioning the steps taken by the government to mitigate the devastating effects of the virus, the SAPM said that the provinces had been advised to make arrangements such as ensuring the availability of ample oxygen to deal with any such situation.
“They have been advised to arrange oxygen and ensure availability of other hospital supplies to deal with any untoward situation,” Sultan said.
Dispelling the impression that the virus has become more severe, the SAPM said that according to the preliminary data the Omicron variant is only causing mild disease in vaccinated people. For the unvaccinated, however, the disease can be severe, warning that, “we cannot say that Omicron symptoms will be mild for everyone and all such speculation is premature.”
Last year, in November, when the Omicron was first reported by South African health authorities, NCOC Chief Asad Umar had warned that the new strain’s arrival into the country was inevitable.
“This [strain] has to spread in the whole world as we saw before that when a variant comes, the world is so interconnected that it is impossible to stop it,” Umar had said at the occasion.
Health authorities across the country have appealed to the public to get vaccinated labelling it “the best defense against Omicron”. As per the Sindh Health Department spokesperson, the provincial government’s priority is “to gear up anti-Covid-19 vaccination measures including renewed restrictions on unvaccinated people and enforce implementation of SOPs related to coronavirus.”
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Health Minister, Taimur Khan Jhagra in a tweet stated that, “as expected, this was only a matter of time. Our hospital system has coped with four surges and will continue to be ready. Our best defense is to vaccinate as per National Command and Operation Centre guidelines.”