Despite all the precautions and safety measures, the contagious Covid Delta variant made its way to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). With two confirmed cases, health experts warn the latest version of the respiratory virus might soon rear its head.
By Umar Farooq
According to details, the deadly variant, which is believed to be the most transmissible yet, was identified in swab samples collected at the Bacha Khan International Airport Peshawar from passengers traveling from the United Kingdom.
However, unfortunate as it is, the cases were confirmed within samples collected randomly at the airport. They were later confirmed by National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad instead of Health Department K-P or Khyber Medical University (KMU).
Officials are of the view that although the cases were traced back to the United Kingdom, passengers arriving from the Gulf countries also pose a serious threat. Gulf countries are home to residents from around the world, including India where the Delta variant originated and has been wreaking havoc by causing oxygen shortages, contracting burial spaces and overwhelming the health infrastructure.
“As soon as the cases were confirmed to be the Delta variant, National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) officials began searching for the whereabouts of the passengers,” a senior health official at the airport told The Express Tribune.
The official, who requested anonymity since he was not entitled to speak directly to the media, stated that the federal health department officials could only identify the common and UK variants of Covid-19 but lacked the capacity to identify the Indian-origin variant.
“Over 80% of the cases being confirmed at the airport right now are the UK variant which is of serious concern but as soon as the Indian variant was confirmed among passengers in Peshawar, the staff members panicked,” the official said.
To avoid a Covid catastrophe, random sampling is being done systematically and countries with dominant variants of the super-spreader are being prioritized. “For instance, the Indian variant is common in the UK, so we do random sampling [of passengers from UK] and send the samples to labs for confirmation regarding the variant,” senior virologist Dr Iftikharuddin told The Express Tribune.
According to Dr Iftikharuddin, the Indian variant will make its way to Pakistan sooner or later. “There should be no doubt that the Indian variant will land in Pakistan, but we need to be prepared.” The medical expert urged that more people need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to prevent newer variants.
The virologist emphasized upon vaccinations as the only solution to prevent deaths. “Otherwise, I fear we will have to go back to the lockdowns and discontinue education, gatherings and specifically economic activities,” he told The Express Tribune.
Originally published at The express tribune