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Asad Umar calls for ‘immediate vaccination’ to avert Omicron threat

29 Nov, 2021
Umar announces that in the next 2-3 days, a “big vaccination campaign” will start. Photo: Screen grab
Umar announces that in the next 2-3 days, a “big vaccination campaign” will start. Photo: Screen grab

The government on Monday urged the people to “immediately” get vaccinated to avert the looming threat of the new variant of coronavirus – Omicron.

“Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination it is the only way to avert Omicron,” National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) head Asad Umar said in a press conference Monday after the meeting of the body. He was accompanied by the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Faisal Sultan.

Umar, who also heads the planning ministry, said that the whole nation can lower or decrease the spread of new variant by getting vaccinated as early as possible.

The directives come as the countries around the world impose travel restrictions to stem the spread of a new variant of the virus. Several European states have reported cases of the new variant, dubbed more lethal as compared to previous strains.

South African scientists on November 25 announced the discovery of the new Covid variant in small numbers. The variant - called B.1.1.529 - has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists had told reporters at a news conference.

“We cannot stop the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated and this thing is in our hands,” he said while repeating the travel curbs imposed on Omicron-hit regions – South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and Bostwana.

According to the Nov 17 notification of the NCOC, in order to facilitate stranded Pakistanis, travel from such countries till December 5, will be allowed without exemption but the health/testing protocols will remain applicable.

The NCOC head said the first information was that vaccination would still be effective to contain the microbe spread. He called upon the 30 million citizens, who have been administered their first dose of the vaccine, to get their second dose and lower the virus threat.

Asad added that the NCOC was in coordination with all provinces and regions for the vaccination campaign. In the next couple of days, a “big vaccination campaign” will start, he said while stressing the need for immunisation.

“The variant will reach Pakistan,” he said, claiming that it cases are likely in the next couple of weeks.

"The only was to avert this crisis is to get the maximum number of people vaccinated."

The NCOC head informed the mediamen that a booster shot vaccination drive would start soon, with decision to be made by Tuesday (tomorrow)

He added that most of the cases were seen in people “who haven’t been vaccinated or those who delayed in getting vaccinated.”

Why is it’s variant of concern?

Briefing the reporters on the new variant of Covid, SAPM Sultan said that it was spreading more rapidly as compared to other variants - as was evident in South Africa.

“This virus spreads faster. Its genetic code is so changed that it’s more dangerous,” Sultan said and told reporters that the NCOC was reviewing flights schedule and virus mutations.

He concurred with the NCOC's view that the variant would make its way to Pakistan 'because the world is interconnected'.

He reiterated the need to get people vaccinate people so that another emergency-like situation isn't created. He added that SOPs will remain as it is and underscored the need for administering millions of vaccines.

NCOC head Umar urged the people to get vaccinated without delay while sharing the Covis positivity ratio of South Africa that increased to 10 per cent just 10 days after the first Omicron case was reported.

“We won’t’ have much time when it will come here,” Umar said.

NCOC daily update

Pakistan has reported less than one per cent Covid positivity ratio over the last 24 hours, giving a sigh of relief to the people amid the emergency of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

The National Command and Operation Centre in its daily update share the details two days after issuing notification related to Omicron and urging people to ensure that their vaccination is completed.

“Statistics 29 Nov 21: total tests in last 24 hours: 29,530, positive cases: 176, positivity %: 0.59% deaths: 9, patients on critical care: 923,” the NCOC said in a tweet.