Karachi: Pakistan reported its first case of omicron, a variant of the coronavirus, on Thursday.
Sindh officials said that the patient who tested positive for Omicron in a private hospital was a woman who had travelled to Pakistan from another country.
The health department said it would trace the woman’s contacts and conduct virus testing.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that early data indicate that compared with previous variants, the new coronavirus variant may be more likely to reinfect people who have already been infected or vaccinated, but it may also cause milder illness. .
“Emerging data from South Africa suggests increased risk of reinfection with Omicron,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, adding that “there is also some evidence that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta”.
But he stressed that more data was needed before drawing firm conclusions, and urged countries everywhere to boost their surveillance to help provide a clearer picture of how Omicron is behaving.
The hopeful assessments came as global concern grew over the heavily mutated variant, which has forced dozens of nations to re-impose border restrictions and raised the possibility of a return to economically punishing lockdowns.
Even if it does turn out that Omicron causes less severe disease, Tedros warned against slacking off vigilance against the virus.
“Any complacency now will cost lives,” he warned.
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan agreed, pointing out that so far the data indicates the variant is “efficiently transmitting, and probably more efficiently transmitting even than the Delta variant.”
“That does not mean that the virus is unstoppable,” he said.
“But it means the virus is more efficient at transmitting between human beings. And therefore we have to redouble our efforts to break those chains of transmission to protect ourselves to protect others.”
He said that even if the new variant is less dangerous than the previous variant, if it spreads faster, it may still sicken more people, overburden the health system, and “and more deaths”.
WHO experts emphasized the importance of vaccination and emphasized that even if vaccines prove to be less effective for Omicron, as some data indicate, they are still expected to provide significant protection against serious diseases.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan cautioned against subconsciously reacting to earlier studies, which suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may reduce the efficacy of the new variant.
She pointed out that the studies done so far were small and that the reduction in the “neutralising activity” varied dramatically between different studies, from four to five fold in some experiments to up to 40-fold in others.
They also only looked at the neutralisation of antibodies, when “we know the immune system is much more complex than that,” she said.
“So I think it’s premature to conclude that this reduction neutralising activity would result in a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness,” she said. “We do not know that.”