People advised to mask up in ‘crowded’ places amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Masked people walk in a market amid the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

As the positivity ratio of coronavirus cases in the country closes to 3%, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Thursday advised citizens to mask up in “crowded tightly enclosed spaces”.

“Mask wearing is recommended at crowded tightly enclosed spaces including healthcare facilities,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) quoted the NCOC.

The NIH said the decision was taken by the NCOC due to the current COVID-19 disease trends across the country. It added that the guidelines will remain in place till April 30.

The guideline comes after the countrywide positivity ratio climbed to 2.98%. At least 14 patients are in critical care.

As per the NIH, 4,334 test were conducted countrywide in the last 24 hours and 129 returned positive.

In January this year, Pakistan confirmed the presence of one of the three dominant strains of COVID-19 in China and Omicron’s subvariant XBB’s presence.

“Genomic surveillance is underway at NIH Islamabad. However, due to low positivity, only a few samples are available for sequencing. Our last batch showed increased cases of Omicron XBB,” an official of the NIH Islamabad said.

NIH officials also reiterated that there is no imminent threat of any major COVID-19 wave in Pakistan. However, we are continuously monitoring the situation and prepared for any situation, they added.

On the other hand, scientists at Aga Khan University also confirmed to The News that they had detected and reported the XBB sub-variant of the Omicron variant to the authorities in the country but added that they had not yet seen other two sub-variants, including BF.7 in the country.

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