KARACHI: Health officials in Sindh said they have detected two coronavirus variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.
It would be the first detection of those variants in Pakistan confirmed by officials.
“Yesterday, 13 samples underwent genomic study at the Agha Khan University Hospital, of these 10 were of the UK variant and two were of the [South] Africa and Brazil variants”, Minister for Health and Population Welfare, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho said on Friday.
The highly contagious variants were discovered at a hospital in Karachi, which has also reported the most deaths in any city, accounting for 3,903 of the country’s 17,957 deaths.
Some 825,519 cases have been detected in the country, with 4,696 in the last 24 hours, according to the National Command Operation Center (NCOC) data released on Saturday.
“You can see these strains and the kind of pressure that can be put on our health facilities,” Pechuho said. “If you contract the Brazilian or South African variants, you can become extremely ill.”
Pakistan has seen record deaths in recent days from the coronavirus, and stricter restrictions on movement and gathering in public are planned for the upcoming Eid holidays.
Officials are worried the health care system, already under strain, could reach breaking point if more contagious variants of the virus begin to spread, as has happened in India.
“This should be an alarm bell for our health system,” Pechucho said. “Our hospitals can be overwhelmed, our ventilators and beds will not be enough, and you have already seen this happen in India.”