National Command and Control Authority chief Asad Umer has said that it is inevitable that the COVID-19's Omicron variant will hit Pakistan because it is impossible to stop viruses from spreading in this world.
Addressing a press conference with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, he said that the NCOC is taking steps to delay the arrival and minimize the impact of the new variant.
“We are ramping up the number of coronavirus tests. We will conduct testing in the high-risk areas," said Umer.
“We are rejuvenating the contact-tracing system which proved effective earlier [to control the spread of coronavirus]. But, as the number of positive cases declined, the system slowed down.”
There will be more restrictions on people coming to Pakistan.
'Vaccination is the only defence'
The NCOC chief said that restrictions can only delay the arrival of this new variant, they can’t stop it.
The only defence we have is vaccination, he said.
“In the next few days, a robust vaccination campaign will start in all four provinces. We only have two to three weeks [before the variant arrives] to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
The NCOC is thinking of starting a booster-shot programme for people most susceptible to coronavirus. Details will be announced by tomorrow.
Dr Faisal Sultan said that even in European countries, unvaccinated people are being affected the most.
“The research into the genetic makeup of this variant has revealed mutations which have the potential to make it 'deadly' and 'highly contagious,’" said Dr Sultan.
Pakistan bans inbound travel from six countries
On November 27, the NCOC banned inbound travel from South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana and Hong Kong.
According to the notification, the ban has been imposed with immediate effect.
Consequent to the emergence of the Omicron strain in South Africa, these countries had been placed in category C.
People from the category C countries can travel to Pakistan only under specific NCOC guidelines, the notification added.
Travel from these seven territories would be allowed only “on extreme emergency” and the travellers will be required to follow health and testing protocols which include
- Negative PCR report
- Vaccination certificate
- Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival
Pakistani travellers from these countries, till December 5, will be allowed without restrictions but with certain conditions. The above-mentioned protocols will remain in place.
‘Highly transmissible variant’
The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s advisory panel has classified the new variant as “highly transmissible”.
Omicron has been put into the most troubling category of coronavirus variants after Delta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.
Several countries rushed to ban flights to slow the spread of Omicron. The stock markets and oil prices plunged on fears surrounding the variant, potentially dealing a heavy blow to the global economic recovery.