The first-ever case of a highly infectious Indian variant of coronavirus has been detected in Pakistan despite a ban on travellers from the neighbouring country since April, the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed on Friday.
The Islamabad-based NIH – the country’s top government-run health institute – shared the results of whole-genome sequencing of SARS CoV-2 samples collected during the first three weeks of May 2021.
“The sequencing results confirmed the detection of seven cases of B.1.351 [South African variant] and one case of B.1.617.2 [Indian variant]. This is the first in-country detection of the latter strain,” it said in a statement.
As per protocols, the NIH statement added, contact tracing of all the cases is in progress by the Field Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance Division and District Health Office (DHO), Islamabad.
The NIH further said that the continued detection of global strains highlighted the ongoing need for observation of guidelines, usage of masks and need for vaccination.
After India’s explosive outbreak of Covid-19 fuelled by the new strain earlier this year, Pakistan in April had imposed a ban on travellers arriving from the neighbouring country via the air, sea and land routes. However, in May, the variant was detected in Thai travellers who had visited Pakistan.
Health authorities in Thailand had confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant in a Thai woman and her 4-year-old son who were put in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan, according to a foreign news agency.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier revealed that the Indian strain of Coronavirus had been found in dozens of countries all over the world. The UN health agency, said the B.1.617 variant had been detected in more than 4,500 samples uploaded to an open-access database “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions”.
“And WHO [World Health Organization] has received reports of detections from five additional countries,” it said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic earlier in May. Outside of India, it said that Britain had reported the largest number of Covid cases caused by the variant.
WHO has already declared B.1.617 – which counts three so-called sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics – as a “variant of concern”. It was therefore added to the list containing three other variants of Covid-19 – those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.
The variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either being more transmissible, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protections.