Only matter of few weeks before new COVID-19 Omicron variant hits Pakistan: Minister
It is only a matter of few weeks before the new COVID-19 Omicron variant hits Pakistan, the head of Pakistan's anti-coronavirus task force warned on Monday, urging people to get vaccinated to reduce the threat of the potentially more contagious strain that has triggered global panic.
Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is chief of National Command and Control Center (NCOC), tasked to tackle the pandemic, said that the world was so interconnected that it was impossible to stop a new variant when it has started spreading in the world.
Umar urged people to get vaccinated as a precaution against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
''This variant (Omicron) will come to Pakistan, and we have next 2-3 weeks to reduce its threat,'' he said.
The Omicron variant, feared to spread faster and partially reduce vaccine protection, was identified in South Africa earlier this week and classed as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A “variant of concern” is the WHO's top category of worrying COVID-19 variants.
Countries around the world are currently racing to introduce travel bans and restrictions on southern African countries in an effort to contain Omicron's spread.
European countries along with the UK, Mauritius, Israel, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the US, Pakistan and the Netherlands have imposed a ban on southern African countries to contain the spread of the new variant.
Many other countries followed suit, most of them indicating that only their own citizens would be allowed back, subject to a quarantine period.
Umar said that vaccination was the only way to minimise the threat as the initial information showed that despite being dangerous, vaccination would be effective against Omicron.
The minister also announced that a big vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 would be launched in the next 2-3 days.
''So it is my appeal to Pakistanis, particularly those who've got one dose to get the second dose because this is one effective thing we have to protect ourselves from the danger of this variant,'' Umar said.
The minister said the consultation process would be completed by Tuesday to administer booster shots to highly vulnerable people.
He also said that the number of daily tests would be enhanced and the contact-tracing system would be revived.
Umar said that so far over 50 million Pakistanis have been completely vaccinated, while another 30 million have been given only one dose.
He said it was not possible to block its entry into Pakistan and that vaccination was the key tool to fight it.
Pakistan had on Saturday imposed a complete ban on travel from six African countries, including South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia, and Hong Kong due to threat of the new variant.
Meanwhile, Pakistan reported 176 new cases in the last 24 hours, which is the lowest since April 2020 when the country was hit by the first wave of the pandemic.
It reported five deaths during the period, taking the total number of fatalities to 28,709, while the national tally of confirmed cases has reached 1,284,365.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)