Pakistan has detected its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Official said Thursday the infection was found in a 57-year-old unvaccinated woman in Karachi, the country’s largest city and capital of the southern Sindh province.
Local media reported the patient, who was isolating at home after being discharged from the hospital a day earlier, did not have a travel history and contact tracing was under way.
“We have not yet concluded the genomic study of the patient’s sample but the way the virus is behaving, it seems like it is omicron,” provincial Health Minister Azra Fazal Pechuno said in a video statement.
Pechuno said people need not panic and urged them to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“Omicron is highly transmissible, but deaths or serious illnesses have not been seen in reports from South Africa,” where the variant was first detected, she added.
In a statement Thursday, the federal government-run National Institute of Health in Islamabad said it was premature to draw any conclusions whether the patient in Karachi was infected with omicron.
“To clarify, the sample is not yet confirmed to be omicron via whole-genome sequencing, which is to be performed after obtaining the sample,” the statement said. “However, in the light of global situation, the public is strongly urged to get vaccinated at the earliest.”
Late last month, Pakistan placed a complete ban on travel from six African countries, including South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini — formerly known as Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia, and Hong Kong after the discovery of omicron.
Authorities later extended the ban to nine more countries, including Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe, and tightened monitoring of passengers arriving from several other nations.
Pakistan, a country of about 220 million people, has reported close to 1.3 million coronavirus cases, including more than 28,800 deaths.
As of Thursday, officials said more than 24% of the total population and 35% of the eligible population had been vaccinated against the pandemic.