The discovery of a novel coronavirus variant known as JN1, a subvariant of Omicron, is causing concerns following the confirmation of four cases in Pakistan.
Despite the infected individuals showing mild symptoms, health authorities are maintaining a vigilant stance. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Health has verified that all four patients have successfully recovered without facing any complications. This development coincides with global attention on the new strain, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to designate JN1 as a “variant of interest.” Currently, the WHO assesses the risk to public health from this variant as low, based on available evidence. Dr. Nadeem Jan, the interim health minister, has reassured the public that authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
In light of the emergence of JN1, Border Health Services, in collaboration with national and provincial health authorities and laboratories, is currently on heightened alert to ensure effective disease surveillance. Stringent screening measures have been put in place at international airports’ entry and exit points.
Dr. Jan stressed the enforcement of international health regulations by the Border Health Services Department and underscored the comprehensive preparedness of both federal and provincial entities. Notably, around 90% of Pakistan’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, a crucial step in combating the transmission of such variants. As the winter season presents its own set of challenges, Dr. Jan reiterated the significance of preventive measures, urging the public to persist in wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and adhering to health guidelines to control the spread of not only COVID-19 but also other infectious diseases.
It is important to highlight that recently, the national government decided to acquire 500,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure in light of the potential resurgence of a new variant identified in various nations.
The Emergency Operation Centre’s technical advisory group advised on the approach to procure Pfizer vaccines from the United States. On Friday, the Sindh Health Department verified the existence of a new COVID-19 variant in two individuals who arrived at Karachi Airport from abroad. Nevertheless, it emphasized that no instances of this variant have been reported within the Sindh province.