Pakistan reported more than 700 COVID-19 cases in a single day on Monday, its highest tally in two months, as authorities warn of a fifth wave of infections and prepare to try to contain the omicron variant rapidly spreading.
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At least 708 cases in the past 24 hours have pushed the positivity rate to 1.55%, the highest since Oct. 24, according to data from the National Command Operation Center (NCOC), which is overseeing the response to the pandemic.
“There is now clear evidence of the start of another wave of COVID which has been expected for a few weeks,” Asad Umar, the minister responsible for overseeing anti-COVID-19 operations, said on Twitter.
Genome sequencing has detected an increasing number of cases of the omicron variant, especially in the larger city of Karachi, he said.
About 70 million people in Pakistan, or 32 percent of the population, have received two doses of the vaccine.
The government authorized booster doses for citizens over 30 from Monday. Children over 12 are offered vaccines in their schools.
The first case of the omicron variant was reported on December 13 in Karachi and a total of 75 cases have been confirmed through December 27, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Twelve of the cases were linked to international travel, he said.
The Sindh provincial government, of which Karachi is the capital, is working on a strategy to contain the variant, which included a partial lockdown of a neighborhood in Karachi last week after a dozen cases of omicron were detected in a family.
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