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34 Covid-19 cases reported among international travellers in two weeks at Karachi airport – Pakistan

KARACHI: Five more Covid-19 positive cases were detected among international travellers arriving at the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, on Wednesday, bringing the total number of such cases in two weeks to 34, health department sources told Dawn.

Most of these passengers arriving from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iraq had been quarantined at the isolation centre in Bhitaiabad, the rest at the Airport Hotel while one of them had been shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

Seven of the passengers were deportees.

“The health department is conducting genomic sequence studies of the Covid-19 samples (collected from these travellers) to see which variant is involved,” said Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho during a meeting with the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) members in which she participated via video link on Wednesday.

The minister also observed that international travel was exacerbating the spread of infections, calling for more stringent measures at airports with rapid antigen testing as well as PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) and ensuring that positive travellers were quarantined.

“International travellers may not exhibit symptoms till a week or so after landing and become a source of transmission within their communities as quarantine on international travellers is not being implemented.”

She expressed the fear that there would be a spike in Covid-19 cases as happened last year when there was a three-fold increase in infections after Eid holidays. “People are travelling back and forth for Eid holidays. The risk of spreading infections is high as we are already seeing an increase in Covid positive cases.”

The minister suggested that the railway operations should be curtailed for at least the next seven to 10 days and the permission for 70 per cent occupancy in rail carriages reconsidered.

She also emphasised that non-pharmaceutical interventions (the actions apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicines that people can take to help slow the spread of illnesses) should be maintained as not doing would make things worse with regard to the Covid-19 situation.

Secretary of health Dr Kazim Jatoi and deputy secretary Dr Mansoor Wassan were also present in the meeting.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 cases were reported for the first time in Sindh since Nov 2020.

According to the health department, the province has reported 2,076 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, a significant jump from yesterday’s 1,334, and marking the first time the province recorded more than 2,000 daily infections since November 2020.

Sindh had reported 2,003 coronavirus infections on Nov 9, 2020.

The provincial tally of cases has reached 303,323 while the death toll has risen to 4,854 after 19 more people succumbed to the virus, according to a statement by the Chief Minister House.

In the same 24-hour period, 611 people recovered from Covid-19 while 20,421 tests were conducted.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2021

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