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EditorialNew ‘highly transmissible’ variant

New ‘highly transmissible’ variant

The new Coronavirus variant identified in South Africa has sent alarm bells ringing across the globe. The EU countries have been quick to impose temporary air travel bans from people arriving from South Africa, while Japan has put a 10-day quarantine period restriction upon arrival. US President Joe Biden on Friday also said that “I’ve decided that we’re going to be cautious”. However, the WHO that named the variant of ‘high concern’ Omicron warned against overreaction as details of whether the variant causes more severe disease were not present as of yet. Nonetheless, the organisaiton declared the variant to be ‘highly transmissible’, similar to that of the delta variant. In the backdrop of this, the panic caused in the world that is still reeling from the adverse effects caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is understandable. The disease has after all cost lives of around five million people across the globe, while sending livelihoods of many others crashing.

With this new variant, it is advisable for countries to tread with caution. In Pakistan where the Coronavirus positivity ratio has been immensely mitigated to below two percent, the government should not become complacent. The vaccination campaign must be robust and vaccines administered from rural to urban localities. No one should be left behind. This does not mean that the government is lacking in its efforts. The campaign has borne fruit, resulting in many COVID-19 restrictions being lifted. On Friday, the Sindh government also announced that unvaccinated people would not be allowed in mosques. This is indeed a great initiative as mosques witness a great footfall and make it hard to practice SOPs.

In a world that had come to a standstill, Coronavirus vaccinations have been the major driving force behind it going to almost pre-covid-19 normalcy. It is then upon the rich countries to ensure vaccine equity for all. Rich countries hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic. It must be noted that less than six percent people in the entire African continent have been immunized. If the rich countries want to actively avert reversing the months of progress made against the Coronavirus, they need to ensure that people in poor countries – millions of whom have not even received their first jab – have access to the vaccine. Temporary travel bans are not going to do any favours.

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