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Pakistan faces 5th Covid-19 wave as new Omicron cases reported


Pakistan is now facing the fifth wave of coronavirus and cases may peak in late January or early February, health experts have said, as Islamabad on Friday reported 34 new cases of Omicron variant.

The new Omicron cases, the highest reported
from a city in a single day, have pushed the total number of Omicron cases beyond
100.

At least 66 of the total cases have been reported
from Islamabad so far.

On Thursday, eleven members of a family
tested positive in Karachi after they arrived in the city from Lahore.

Karachi authorities on Friday imposed micro-smart lockdown in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area where the family live. They were also carrying out tests to determine if the people who came in contact with the patients had also been infected.

Omicron spreads four times faster than the Delta variant which overwhelmed the health system of India and other countries in 2021.

The number of coronavirus cases and deaths
in Pakistan doubled in the year 2021 as compared to the previous year.

Fifth wave

The National Command and Control Center (NCOC) has reported 482 and 515 cases on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The number is higher than around 350 per day reported over the past several weeks.

Health experts have told SAMAA Digital that
Pakistan is currently in the grip of a fifth wave and people need to strictly follow
Covid-19 related SOPs that were introduced in 2020.

Epidemiologist Dr Rana Jawad Asghar told
Sama Digital that the fifth wave of coronavirus has started in Pakistan, and it
is feared that the new wave will peak in late January or early February.

He said that the Omicron variant spreads four times faster than the Delta variant of Covid-19. Cold weather enables the Covid-19 to spread because people spend most of the time in closed spaces, said Dr Asghar.

People should ensure ventilation at homes
and offices, wear masks and avoid crowds, he said.

He said that although Omicron spreads
faster than other variants, it is less deadly and citizens should not panic.

However, the World
Health Organization has warned that with increased growth rate Omicron can overwhelm
health systems.

Dr Asghar is not the only expert to warn
about a new Covid-19 wave. Health experts in the past few days have
cautioned that cases could peak in January if people failed to follow the
SOPs.

Lockdown in Karachi

Karachi East Deputy Commission on Friday
issued a notification to impose smart and micro-smart lockdown in certain areas
of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block-7 for two weeks.

The Sindh Health Department had told the local administration to enforce lockdown after at least eleven members of a family tested positive for Omicron on Thursday. The virus was detected through next-generation sequencing at the public health laboratory of DUHS.

The notification from the deputy
commissioner lists 12 members of the family. Health authorities were conducting
more tests.

Under the lockdown order, authorities have
restricted the free movement of people living in the area, all businesses
except shops selling food and medicine have been closed, public transport has been
banned, and pillion riding is no longer allowed.

The first Omicron case in Karachi was confirmed
on December 13. It was also the first confirmed case in Pakistan.

The number then began to increase and after the 12 new cases, the total number has increased to 45 in Karachi.

Islamabad reported its first case on December
25 and Lahore on December 27.

Covid cases, deaths increase in 2021

Pakistan’s first case of coronavirus was
reported in Karachi on February 26, 2020. The person who tested positive was a
student of Karachi University who had returned from Iran. He eventually
recovered.

According to the data released by the
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the year 2021 has seen an increase in cases
and deaths from coronavirus compared to the previous year.

In 2021, a total of 815,661 cases were
reported whereas the number of cases reported last year was 479,715. Similarly,
at least 18,822 people died after contracting the virus in 2021 compared to 10,105
who died in 2020.

At least 154 doctors and 32 paramedics lost
their lives to Covid-19, says PMA Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad.

The government declared them martyrs and
announced aid for their families, but the promise has not materialized yet, he
said.

Vaccination

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, on Friday tweeted that Pakistan has achieved its vaccination target for the year 2021 and has completed the vaccination of 70 million people.

The vaccination process kick-started in Pakistan on February 3, 2021, two days after China donated 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine on February 1, 2021.

The government of Pakistan first started vaccination of front health workers. Senior citizens were the next and then the age limit was gradually lowered for free vaccination.

According to Asad Umar, 77% of the population of Islamabad has been vaccinated. Punjab has immunized 51%, Gilgit-Baltistan 46%, Azad Kashmir 45%, Balochistan 42%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 41, and Sindh 37% of the population.

At least 46% of people in the country have received both jabs and 63% have received a single dose.

So far, a total of 156.623 million doses of
vaccine have been administered in the country.

PCR testing is currently available in 247
public and private laboratories.



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