UK Covid-19 variant found in 50pc of positive cases in Karachi: Sindh health minister – Pakistan

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said on Wednesday that 50 per cent of the samples in a Covid-19 genomic study conducted in Karachi were confirmed to be of the UK coronavirus variant.

In a video message released on Twitter, Pechuho said that the UK variant “spreads very rapidly” and it had already spread in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab as a result of which “a lot of deaths are occurring and a lot of patients are being affected.”

“This variant has entered Karachi as well and the UK variant was found in 50pc of the samples we tested in the genomic studies we did,” she said, adding that because of that, there was need to take “great precautions” against the coronavirus.

Pechuho said that it was the month of Ramazan and Eidul Fitr was coming up so there was “need for great care” when visiting the markets during Sehri and Iftar and for Eid shopping.

“Follow SOPs (standard operating procedures), don’t unnecessarily venture out, avoid crowds, keep washing hands with soap and water, wearing a mask is very important and maintain social distancing.

“This way you can protect yourself, your family members, your relatives and other people in the community from this disease,” she said.

She said that vaccination centres would remain open after Iftar and urged people to get themselves vaccinated to protect against Covid-19.

Major variants

A previous study had analysed 3,501 positive samples and found that the UK, South African and Brazilian variants were responsible for causing 54pc of the new Covid-19 infections reported from December 2020 to February 2021 in Karachi.

According to the study, the positivity ratio in the months of September to November 2020 was 1.538pc, which jumped to 7.6pc in December 2020 to February 2021.

Dr Rafiq Khanani, a senior pathologist and president of the Infection Control Society of Pakistan, had conducted the study with colleagues Dr Muhammad Hanif and Dr Adnan Dinar, both molecular biologists.

“Unmonitored international flights and no quarantine on arrival in Pakistan from any country seemed to have led to a rapid introduction of the variants in Pakistan,” Dr Khanani had explained, adding that the spread of the pandemic globally provided an opportunity to variable strain types to thrive.

The analysis had found the UK variant in 944 samples and Brazilian and South African variants (together) in 934 samples. There were 1,623 cases of old viral infection.

Experts at Karachi University’s National Centre for Virology had also detected the South African variant along with the UK variant in the samples tested at the facility.

“Around 50pc of the positive cases tested at the facility involved the UK variant while 25pc were the South African variant. There is a need for genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 to timely identify and contain the rapidly emerging new strains of the virus,” said Professor Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at KU.

Pakistan is currently facing a third wave of the coronavirus and Sindh reported 730 cases yesterday. Total coronavirus cases in Sindh are 274,196 while the death toll is 4,599.