With the extreme new rise and mutation of Coronavirus, Pakistan on Tuesday also has reported its first confirmed cases of a new Covid-19 strain detected in the United Kingdom earlier this year.
The New Coronavirus Variant in Pakistan
According to the Sindh health department, 12 samples of UK returnees were taken for genotyping out of which six were positive and three showed the new variant of the Covid virus in the first phase. The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) later released a statement, quoting that two more patients admitted to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad also showed the new variant.
https://twitframe.com/show?url=https://twitter.com/SindhHealthDpt/status/1343832560854556673The spokesperson for the Sindh Health Department Meeran Yousuf said, “The genotyping showed 95 per cent match of the new variant from the UK. These samples will go through another phase of genotyping,” For its part, the NCOC said that all the patients’ “results have to be confirmed through further analysis (whole genome sequencing) which will take a few more days to complete. “Meanwhile, the contact tracing of these patients is in process and their contacts are also being isolated,” Meeran added.
The World Health Organisation tweeted earlier this month that it was “in close contact with UK officials on the new #COVID19 virus variant” and promised to update governments and the public as more is learned. The new variant was first detected in early September. Around November around a few cases emerged in London having the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December. The variance came to dominance with the testing results in some centers. Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab shared the graph in the relevance of the new variant spread in the country. WHO further showed the concern as, “What we understand is that it does have increased transmissibility, in terms of its ability to spread,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19.
Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands of different mutations among samples of the virus causing Covid-19. Many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are. The new SARS-CoV-2 variant, later given the ID B.1.1.7, was first discovered in the United Kingdom and appears to spread faster than others, according to Science Magazine. Researchers believe it may have originated in an “immunocompromised patient” who had a long-running infection.
According to Science Magazine, genome sequencing of the new variant showed that the virus had accumulated a slew of mutations that together caused 17 amino acid changes in the virus’ proteins, eight of them in the crucial spike protein. These changes would help it evade the immune system and theoretically make it twice as infectious.
How serious it is in Pakistan?
News of the Coronavirus variant coming to Pakistan is concerning because, according to a study by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK that, “The increase in transmissibility [of new variant] is likely to lead to a large increase in incidence, with Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths projected to reach higher levels in 2021 than were observed in 2020, even if regional tiered restrictions implemented before 19 December are maintained,” said researchers. The discovery of the new strain set off alarm bells worldwide just as more countries began vaccination campaigns to halt a pandemic that has claimed more than 1.7 million lives since it emerged a year ago in China.
The development of this new variant came while Pakistan is currently in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19. Pakistan reported the greatest number of deaths during the second wave and the second-highest since the beginning of the pandemic, with 111 people who die in the country on Thursday. The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) stated that it was vigilant about the emergence of the new variant of SARS Cov-2 in Pakistan. However, a Special Health Assistant (SAPM) on Dr. Faisal Sultan admitted that the situation in the Pakistan health sector was a dark image. He stated that the situation was the “worst” compared to other countries in South Asia.
In its statement issued on Tuesday evening, the NCOC said that the government had already taken a number of steps to respond to the development. “On December 21, the NCOC decided to limit and restrict travel from the UK to Pakistan only to certain categories of travelers and only under strict protocols that mandated a negative PCR test before the flight, a PCR test upon arrival in Pakistan and quarantine as prescribed by the authorities.
“Moreover, track, trace, and quarantine were also initiated for passengers who had arrived from the UK as far as 7 days before the announcement of these travel restrictions. These measures are in place until Jan 4.”
The declaration added that samples of traveled patients from the United Kingdom and have been tested positive were also evaluated in some laboratories of the presence of the new variant. The detection of the variant in the five patients has been made possible thanks to these efforts, added.