Pakistan speeds up vaccination after travel restrictions over Omicron threats

Islamabad, Nov 29 (EFE).- Pakistan on Monday said it would boost its vaccination drive to minimize the possible spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant after banning travel from Hong Kong and six African countries.

The government said it was preparing its defense against the inevitable entry of the strain into the country, even as no infection from the variant of concern has emerged.

“As we have seen before when a variant comes it spreads all over the world (because) the world is so interconnected and it is impossible to stop it,” said Asad Umar, head of the federal government’s central body dealing with the pandemic.

Umar said, “The most important thing to stop the variant (from spreading) is vaccination.”

The National Command and Operation Centre chief told reporters in Islamabad that Omicron was a “very dangerous variant,” but its emergence had made it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older.

“This is one effective thing we have to protect ourselves from the danger of this variant.”

He said there was a need to speed up the vaccination process in the country.

Umar said the government would begin a big vaccination campaign in all the provinces in two to three days.

“This variant will come to Pakistan, and we have next 2-3 weeks to reduce its threat.”

The NCOC head said the government was also considering booster shots for those who face an increased risk of getting sick.

“We are also increasing testing including in high risk areas,” Umar said, adding “the contact-tracing system will also be rejuvenated.”

Pakistan has registered an average of about 300 cases of coronavirus a day in recent weeks, and since the start of the pandemic, it has added more than 1.2 million infections.

According to the latest data from the health authorities, 49 million people have received the necessary two doses of anti-coronavirus vaccines in the country of 207 million inhabitants.

Very little is known about the new variant that “has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the World Health Organization said.

The United Nations health agency has designated new strain as a “variant of concern.”

The WHO said it was not yet clear if the Omicron variant was more transmissible compared to other Covid-19 variants or if it causes more severe disease.

“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron,” the WHO said. EFE


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