ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health authorities have decided to randomly test passengers arriving into the South Asian country from Gulf states for a new omicron sub-variant, which has resulted in a spike in COVID-19 infections in different parts of the world.
The South Asian country identified its first case of new omicron spinoff, known by its technical name BA.2.12.1, on Monday, according to Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH).
The omicron variant of coronavirus was first detected in South Africa in November 2021, with experts saying it was more contagious than the previous strains. The BA.2.12.1 sub-variant is also said to be highly transmissible but not so deadly.
Pakistan's Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel directed the NIH to randomly test passengers arriving from the Gulf countries for the new omicron sub-variant.
"Keeping a close check for surveillance and monitoring at points of entry, RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) testing to be conducted at each major airport i.e. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi for all inbound flights from Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia," the NIH said in a statement on Friday.
Authorities will randomly conduct 10-15 tests for arrivals through small aircraft with up to 150 passengers. Similarly, 15-20 passengers will be tested in case of large aircraft with a capacity to transport 250 or more people.
"The revised protocol stands in place with effect from 00.01 hrs 14th May, 2022 till further orders and reviewed by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC)," the statement read.
Pakistan reported its first coronavirus case in February 2020 and launched a vaccination campaign about a year later to immunize people against the disease.
The country reported 93 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, according to official data, constituting 0.51 percent positivity rate.
Currently, 115 patients are in critical care across the country, the NIH said on Twitter.