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ISLAMABAD, Dec 29 (APP): The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Tuesday said around five samples of coronavirus positive UK inbound passengers were under evaluation to ascertain the presence of variant strain of COVID-19.

The NCOC, in a recent statement issued here, had informed that the viruses detected from individuals coming from the UK were also being evaluated in selected laboratories for detecting the presence of this variant.

It added that based on this proactive effort, there were five samples (two of them at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and three at the Aga Khan University hospital in Karachi) which might have the variant strain, based on preliminary analysis.

Importantly, it said these results would be confirmed through further analysis (whole genome sequencing) which would take a few more days to complete the study.

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The United Kingdom (UK) had reported the detection of a variant of SARS-COV-2; B.1.1.7, also called VOC-202012/01, earlier this month, it added.

Preliminary analysis by the UK experts had suggested that this particular variant might be more transmissible but there was no evidence so far to suggest that the infection caused by this variant was more severe, the NCOC underscored.

“This strain has also been detected in other countries.”

The government had taken a number of steps to respond to this development.

Keeping in view the risk of variant strain, on the 21st December, 2020, the NCOC decided to limit and restrict travel from the UK to Pakistan only to certain categories of travelers and only under strict protocols that mandated a negative PCR test before the flight, a PCR test upon arrival in Pakistan and quarantine as prescribed by the authorities.

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Moreover, track, trace and quarantine (TTQ) was also initiated for passengers who had arrived from the UK including those who had reached the country 7 days before the announcement of these travel restrictions.

“These measures are in place until 4th January 2021.”

The NCOC and Ministry of National Health Services,

Regulation and Coordination were following this development closely and necessary updates would be provided in due course, it said.