The National Institute of Health (NIH) on Sunday decided to increase the scope of ongoing rapid antigen tests (RATs) of inbound travelers at international airports across the country in light of the global coronavirus situation, a he said in a statement.
In a series of tweets today, the institute – which was leading Pakistan’s response to Covid-19 after the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) was officially closed – said RATs were conducted randomly as measure to monitor Covid -19 activity.
“After reviewing the recent global Covid-19 situation and the direction of the Federal Minister of Health, CDC, the NIH has advised the CHE (Central Health Establishment) to increase the scope of existing ongoing RATs for Covid-19 in international airports in a systematic way, for passengers from different countries,” he said.
The NIH added that the primary purpose of the decision was to remain vigilant and conduct surveillance and screening at ports of entry to quickly detect any infected cases.
Random screening of travelers from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia began yesterday at airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the RAT would now be carried out at the three airports for all inbound flights from the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, according to the proportion.
Initially, a rapid antigen test of 10 to 15 passengers arriving in 150-seat planes and between 15 and 20 travelers arriving in planes with a minimum capacity of 250 seats will be carried out, the spokesman said. CAA.
The measures, he added, were being implemented in light of advice from the Department of Health and would remain in effect until further notice.
First case of Omicron sub-variant detected in Pakistan
The development comes after the first case of the Omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant was detected in Pakistan earlier this month.
On May 9, it was reported in a man who had arrived in Islamabad from a foreign country and tested positive at the airport, an official from the Ministry of National Health Services told Dawn. Everyone the person came into contact with has been quarantined.
The Health Ministry official said the patient tested positive at the airport and later, during genome sequencing, it was confirmed that he was infected with the new variant. “We decided not to mention the name of the country from which the patient had traveled to Pakistan. However, the new variant has continuously spread to different countries. The patient is feeling well and all of his contacts have been quarantined at their homes,” he said.
“Although the variant is more transmissible, the good thing is that all vaccines are effective against it. We therefore call on the masses to get vaccinated at the earliest and those who have been vaccinated should receive their boosters,” he warned.
The new Omicron sub-variant is a descendant of the old, super-infectious “Stealth Omicron” and has been rapidly gaining traction in the United States.
BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 29% of new Covid-19 infections in the United States during the third week of April, according to data reported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it caused 58% of reported infections in the New York area.
The variant has been detected in at least 13 other countries, but the United States has the highest levels to date. Scientists say it spreads even faster than stealth Omicron.
Following the detection of the Omicron sub-variant, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the immediate restoration of the NCOC which was formed by the PTI government in March 2020 to oversee its response to the coronavirus pandemic. It was disbanded earlier this year in April after the country’s Covid cases disappeared.
According to NIH data, 84 new cases of the virus were reported across the country in the past 24 hours and the positivity rate was 0.48%. No less than 109 patients were receiving intensive care.