Vaccination centres across Sindh will stay open during Eid holidays, Sindh Health Secretary Qasim Soomro confirmed Tuesday.
The decision was taken after the cases of the Delta variant in the province surged, he told SAMAA Digital.
Earlier this week, the National Command and Operation Centre announced that immunisation centres will only be closed on the first day of Eid, while inoculation will resume on Thursday.
According to Soomro, the highly transmissible Delta variant was recently detected in five members of a family in Karachi’s Lyari. “The administration is trying to trace people who were in contact with the family.”
Nine other people, who were already vaccinated against the virus, have tested positive again too. “Of these, four people are in critical condition,” the health secretary said.
The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, spreads faster than the Alpha and other strains. Health experts have warned that the new variant can spread like “wildfire” if precautionary measures are not taken during the Eidul Azha holidays.
The Sindh government has made coronavirus vaccination mandatory for everyone. Indoor dining has been banned and schools, gyms, beaches and cinemas have been closed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently deemed the Delta variant the “most transmissible of the variants identified so far”.
“Some of India’s immediate neighbours such as Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have experienced a surge in coronavirus infection rates since May 2021.”
The highly contagious Delta variant is causing a surge in new Covid-19 cases even in countries with high vaccination rates. Experts have warned that immunisation campaigns are in a race against time to contain it.
The strain has spread to more than 70 countries. It is highly transmissible and appears to make COVID-19 more severe.
The emergence of this variant “is a serious cloud on the horizon”, says Bill Hanage, an associate professor at Harvard Chan School of Public Health. “Delta is bad; even if we don’t know exactly how bad; recent work has pegged it at maybe 40% more transmissible than the variant we’ve been dealing with until recently.”
The variant appears to cause alarmingly severe symptoms, such as:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Hearing loss
- Joint pain
Dr Tipu Sultan, the former president of the Pakistan Medical Commission, explained that the virus is tiny with a limited lifespan. “It keeps multiplying until it dies and mutates into a newer genetic makeup for better survival.”
The only way to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and new virulent strains is to follow SOPs, he stressed.
Gatherings should be limited, indoor dining should be banned, timings for markets and shops should be monitored, social distancing should be implemented and vaccination should be ramped up, Dr Sultan suggested.
He warned that if safety measures were not taken coronavirus cases will increase and Pakistan’s health system will collapse.
How to protect yourself
Vaccines aren’t a perfect defence. Some fully vaccinated people needed hospital treatment and died after catching the variant. This variant’s advantage over the Alpha one is its ability to partially evade the immune system in some people who are already vaccinated.
The guidelines to avoid exposure to the new variant are the same:
- Sanitize hands more often
- Wear a mask
- Avoid public gatherings
- Get vaccinated as soon as possible
- Avoid meeting people with symptoms
- Avoid unnecessary travel