Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan on Thursday said that no evidence exists to back reports that the new strain of coronavirus in UK has allegedly found its way to Pakistan.
The premier’s aide was responding to a question during a webinar, where he said that Dr Atta-ur-Rehman had provided no scientific evidence of the new virus variant’s existence in the country.
However, it is pertinent to mention here that Dr Atta, the head of the prime minister’s task-force on science and technology, did not claim that the UK’s virus strain was present in the country.
The scientist, speaking in Samaa TV’s morning show, had said: “We have found such strains in which there were genetic changes in the spike protein. Some of these are similar to the change seen in UK’s new strain of coronavirus.”
Dr Atta further clarified that the changes observed in Pakistan are not located in the same spot on the virus’ genetic structure as the UK strain’s.
KP begins tracking people who arrived from UK
A day earlier, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government started tracking passengers who have arrived in the province from UK.
According to a report by the provincial health department, authorities have sent letters to deputy commissioners that include the names of at least 101 people.
The passengers arrived from UK and went to 12 districts of the province which include Mardan, Abbottabad, and Swat. “We will test these people after tracing them,” the health department officials said.
Those who test positive for the virus will be placed under quarantine, said an official of the health department.
Pakistan updates travel restrictions
Pakistan updated its standard operating procedures (SOPs) for travelers inbound from the UK, after cases of a highly new infectious strain of the coronavirus rose across the European country.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced Tuesday that Pakistani passport holders who have been issued the Business, Visitor or Transit visas by British authorities can return to the country provided they show a negative PCR test.
The test, however, must have been taken 72 hours prior to the start of their travel to Pakistan, said the aviation authority.
The government has also allowed Pakistanis that hold study, family, work and settlement visas in the UK to return to Pakistan “if their visas are expiring within the next 30 days from the issuance of this letter while holding negative PCR Test Reports conducted within the 72 hours prior to commencement of travel to Pakistan”.
The new variant
Countries across the globe shut their borders to Britain on Monday due to fears about a new strain of coronavirus, said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original, causing travel chaos and raising the prospect of food shortages days before Britain is set to leave the European Union.
The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, renewed fears about the virus, which killed about 1.7 million people worldwide.
The note of calm from the CEO about the UK mutation echoed the sentiments of the World Health Organization (WHO), which cautioned against major alarm, saying this was a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution.