NCOC rings alarm bells amid 5th Covid wave

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—Omicron confirm cases hit 372 mark

—Asad presses on Vaccination push

—Mulls ways to counter 5th wave

—Sees COVID spreading rapidly across country

Warns against rapid upsurge of Corona 5th wave

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday decided to increase stringent measures to ensure mandatory vaccination due to increasing number of Omicron variant during the fifth wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

The NCOC meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and co-chaired by National Coordinator Major General Muhammad Zafar Iqbal took stock of evolving pandemic situation, the national vaccination campaign and the spread of the disease. Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan also participated in the session.

The forum said the fifth wave of Omicron variant of coronavirus was spreading rapidly in the country. In the last three days, Karachi’s positive rate has jumped from two to six percent, the forum added. The forum urged the masses to use face masks to avoid contracting the new variant and ensure social distancing at the outdoors to minimize disease spread.

It also reviewed the progress of district-wise vaccination campaign being run across the country. The forum reviewed district-wise vaccination targets and directed the province to achieve their set vaccination targets at the earliest to curtail spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has recorded 372 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus till now, as per the data of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination.

The country confirmed its first case of the highly-transmissible variant on December 13 from its most populous city, Karachi. Three weeks later, the variant, which was first reported by South Africa and Botswana, has spread to its major cities.

Dr Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to the prime minister on health, confirmed that a total of 372 infections of the variant have been recorded so far. Most of the cases have been reported in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Dr Sultan added that “it [Omicron] is now in most large countries, and forms an ever increasing proportion amongst the cases detected.”

On November 26, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the Omicron “a variant of concern”. Later, in a press briefing, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, told reporters that the Omicron is spreading at a rate in the world not seen with any previous variant.

“We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” he said.

As per a tally by the New York Times, the variant has already spread to 110 countries around the world. In fact, a month after it was identified, it became the most dominant variant in circulation in the United States.

In the last few days, Pakistan has also seen a gradual uptick in the coronavirus caseload, as on Sunday it recorded 708 new cases, the highest in over two months. On the day, during a press conference, federal minister Asad Umar also warned that there were “clear signs of a new wave” of the virus surging in the country.

Separately, Dr. Sultan has tweeted about an “unmistakable upward trend” in the positivity rate of the country in the last six days.

Pakistan as to date recorded 1,297,235 coronavirus cases and 28,943 deaths.