The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly replacing the Delta variant as 11 members of a family in Karachi’s District East have been found infected with it.
“Experts at the Provincial Public Health Laboratory (PPHL) have detected 11 cases of Omicron variant from the samples of a family from Lahore. These samples had been collected by the Sindh Health Department, which sent them to DUHS, where our experts confirmed the presence of Omicron variant through Next Generation Sequencing (NGS),” Prof Saeed Quraishy, Vice Chancellor, DUHS, .
The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Karachi, has acquired the capability of conducting the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the varsity’s Provincial Public Health Laboratory (PPHL) is now the designated lab of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, Prof Quraishy added.
He said they would continue to carry out surveillance for the Omicron variant cases at their lab, adding that they were using the molecular genetics technique for the detection of new variants, which is not available at many other facilities in the country.
Officials of the Sindh Health Department said they had sent the samples of 20 people infected with COVID-19 to the Dow University for confirmation of the Omicron Variant and after analysis, the Dow University confirmed that 11 people of the family, who came in contact with a female member of their family from Lahore, were infected with the Omicron variant.
“We are now tracing other contacts of these people and will take their samples for analysis but community transmission of this variant has started in the country and we have started seeing a slight surge in the cases of COVID-19 during the last two days,” an official of the Sindh Health Department.
Prof Dr Saeed Khan, an expert of the molecular genetics and pathology at DUHS, also confirmed that they had detected 11 cases of the Omicron variant while a 12th person was also infected but due to less viral load in the sample, they could not declare it a case of the variant with certainty.
“Community transmission of Omicron has started in Pakistan and it is now replacing the Delta variant very rapidly. As it is several times more transmissible, it would soon replace the Delta and other variants in our population,” Prof. Saeed Khan said and warned that people who were not vaccinated or those who had not received the booster dose were vulnerable to the Omicron variant infection.
“Cases of COVID-19 are expected to start rising within a few weeks in Karachi and rest of the country. We may see the peak of fifth wave of COVID-19 by the end of January or first week of February 2022,” he warned and urged people to take precautionary measures, wear masks and get vaccinated with booster dose, if required.