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Global surge: Pakistan tightens screening for new COVID-19 variant at airports

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  • Advisory issued in light of recent spike in COVID-19 cases globally. 
  • BHS advises random sampling of 2% international travellers.
  • No cases of BF.7 variant detected in Pakistan, confirms NIH.

LAHORE: Border Health Services (BHS) Thursday directed airport authorities to tighten COVID-19 screening for all international travellers landing in Pakistan following a recent global resurgence in virus cases, especially in China and India.

The advisory also binds the Airport Health Services to screen — using Antigen Rapid Test— every unwell traveller at the airports.

According to the notification, all the focal persons of the BHS have been advised to maintain a heightened level of awareness for the rapid identification, detection, and isolation of any potential cases to prevent further transmission as a part of effective control and prevention measures.

All the in-charges have been advised to strictly implement Infection Prevention Control (IPC) protocols at the points of entry, including disinfection and fumigation of passenger arrival areas and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPES) by the healthcare workers for interruption of transmission.

A random sampling of all inbound passengers on international flights (2%) has been advised as part of the national response against COVID-19 at the points of entry.

The border health authority has also advised all the airlines to facilitate its staff in carrying out the testing smoothly, as some passengers often resist being tested.

BF.7 Variant 

Following China, India reported the detection of several cases of BF.7, a sub-variant of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is driving the huge COVID surge in China.

The BF.7 sub-variant has already been detected in several other countries, including Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, the US, and the UK.

Believed to be a highly transmissible variant with a shorter incubation period, the BF.7 is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA, experts at NIH said. They said it also has a higher capacity to cause re-infection and infect vaccinated individuals.

“As per the latest studies, the BF.7 variant has several times higher neutralization resistance than the original Wuhan virus. This means the antibodies from the vaccination are not effective enough against the virus”, an expert at the NIH told The News.

NO BF.7 cases detected yet in Pakistan 

On December 26, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) denied the detection of Omicron sub-variant BF.7 in Pakistan and said there is no threat of any new variant of COVID-19.

“An unverified report is circulating in the media regarding the threat of a new COVID-19 variant. The National Command and Operations Center affirms that there is currently no such threat. The situation is being closely monitored,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad said in a statement on Twitter.

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Zaidong, the ambassador, said China will fully back Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.

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Reaffirming on Thursday that China will provide Pakistan with unwavering support in its fight against terrorism is Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong.

In an interview that was broadcast on television, the ambassador promised to cooperate with Pakistan and said that China will protect the interests and safety of the citizens of the two friendly nations.

Zaidong underscored that efforts to undermine the two nations’ bilateral relationship would be thwarted by China’s cooperation with Pakistan.

Also, he emphasized how crucial China-Pakistan relations have become strategically given the changing nature of the world.

In highlighting the transformative impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the ambassador reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to seeing it through.

In addition to creating thousands of employment, he said, “the CPEC has facilitated significant advancements in power generation and transportation infrastructure with over $25 billion in direct investments and substantial infrastructure development.”

Zaidong stressed the value of sharing ideas and knowledge between Pakistan and China, acknowledging their shared security objectives.

Stressing that both countries have a common future, he envisioned their partnership having a greater social impact.

Concerning the terrorist attack on Chinese nationals [working on the Dasu dam], the ambassador expressed gratitude to the Pakistani people for their condolences and sympathy and commended the government for its prompt action.

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Mild rain in Lahore improves the weather

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Early on Friday, light rain in the province capital Lahore and its surrounding areas improved the weather.

But rain also led to power outages in several areas of Lahore, as multiple feeders of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) blew, leaving whole sections of the city without power.

Details show that rain was observed in a number of locations throughout the city, including Model Town, Gulberg, Garden Town, Mall Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Gulshan Ravi, Jail Road, and Sanda.

However, the Met Office has forecasted an additional day of rain for the city during the next 24.

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The government will begin coordinated action against lawbreakers in the Katcha region

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On Friday, Mohsin Naqvi, the interior minister, announced that the government would begin a coordinated operation in the Katcha region to eradicate the miscreants for good.

He stated that collaborative efforts in the Katcha region will make use of contemporary technologies, including drones.

According to Mohsin Naqvi, all security agencies, including the police, should make sure that SOPs are fully implemented in order to protect Chinese nationals living in Pakistan.

He declared that any carelessness in this respect will not be accepted at all while presiding over a meeting to review the National Action Plan’s implementation at NACTA headquarters in Islamabad.

According to Naqvi, failure to follow the SOPs for the safety of foreign nationals will result in severe disciplinary action.

“We have to outfit our departments with cutting-edge technology to eradicate terrorism,” stated the interior minister. He declared that the provinces will receive all the assistance from the federation in this area.

Anti-state forces will be permanently driven out of the Katcha region, according to Naqvi. The interior minister expressed satisfaction with the anti-smuggling operations and stated that all ministries need to make sure that smugglers face stern legal action.

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