ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on COVID-19 has confirmed that two new cases of the highly contagious coronavirus variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom have been detected in Pakistan.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) examined samples taken from travellers who returned from the UK suspected to be carrying the new COVID-19 variant. It has now confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant amongst two individuals who had visited the UK.
This is in follow up to preliminary reports of the existence of this variant, which have now been confirmed via whole-genome sequencing. Since the emergence of the new coronavirus variant in the UK, which was reported during December 2020, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has required and all inbound passengers from the UK to be tested for SARS-CoV-2 on arrival.
It must be noted the variant virus reported in the UK has also been detected in 31 other countries so far. The preliminary epidemiologic and clinical findings suggest that the B.1.1.7 variant virus may have higher transmissibility but without any evidence of increased severity of illness. The NCOC said Pakistani citizens returning from the UK need to take a mandatory PCR test for the new strain of the deadly virus.
Earlier, on December 29, the Sindh Health Department had confirmed that samples of three people returning from the UK showed a 95 per cent match with the new coronavirus variant in the first phase of genotyping.
It said health officials took samples of twelve people upon their return from the UK for genotyping, out of which six turned out to be positive while three showed the new strain of the virus in the first phase.