ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday reported more than 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 after a period of over three months, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Wednesday.
The NCOC said the nation confirmed 2,074 new cases, increasing the caseload to 1,309,248, including 1,259,699 recoveries.
Earlier, the country had reported 2,060 cases on September 24 last year before the infection rate started dropping consistently due to strict measures, including vaccination.
The active cases have also increased to 20,562 including 628 in critical condition.
According to the NCOC data, the pandemic killed 13 people on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 28,987.
Sindh is the most affected province of the country in terms of the number of cases with 490,010 infections followed by Punjab which has reported 448,924 cases so far.
Witnessing an alarming upward trend, the transmission rate in Karachi crossed 20 percent after as many as 1,223 cases were reported against 6,048 samples tested on Tuesday.
“The ratio of Omicron variant in Karachi has reached 95 percent,” authorities said.
Meanwhile, the positivity ratio in Lahore has also seen a surge with data showing the rate in Punjab’s provincial capital reached above seven percent.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi have reported a positivity of four percent each.
The rise in cases is being driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus which has brought a fifth wave of the disease to the nation.
On Tuesday, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said the country has achieved another milestone in the vaccination campaign by crossing the mark of 100 million people who have received at least one dose, including nearly 75 million those who have been fully vaccinated.
PFIZER BOOSTER PROTECTS AGAINST OMICRON: STUDY
Researchers in Israel said they found that a three-shot course of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine provided significant protection against the new Omicron variant.
The findings were similar to those presented by BioNTech and Pfizer which were an early signal that booster shots could be key to protect against infection from the newly identified variant.
The study, carried out by Sheba Medical Center and the Health Ministry’s Central Virology Laboratory, compared the blood of 20 people who had received two vaccine doses 5-6 months earlier to the same number of individuals who had received a booster a month before.
“People who received the second dose 5 or 6 months ago do not have any neutralization ability against the Omicron. While they do have some against the Delta (strain),” Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba, told reporters.
“The good news is that with the booster dose it increases about a hundredfold. There is significant protection of the booster dose. It is lower than the neutralisation ability against the Delta, about four times lower,” she said.
OMICRON ‘INEVITABLE’ IN PAKISTAN
In November, Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), warned the Omicron variant will “inevitably” find its way to Pakistan, adding the nation had “only a few weeks” to contain the latest threat.
“The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older,” he said.
“It is my appeal to people, particularly those who’ve gotten one dose to get the second dose because this is one effective thing we have to protect ourselves from the danger of this variant,” the minister added.
The alert followed a WHO communiqué warning its 194 member states the variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a “very high” global risk where Covid-19 surges could have “severe consequences” in some areas.
The UN agency urged them to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to “ensure mitigation plans are in place” to maintain essential health services.
“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said. “The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high.”