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Pakistan Starts Booster Campaign As Cases Spike Amid Concerns Over Omicron

A man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Karachi on December 20.
A man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Karachi on December 20.

Pakistan is set to start administering booster shots to fully vaccinated people aged over 30 years after the country reported more than 700 COVID-19 cases in a single day, its highest tally in two months.

“There is clear evidence now of a beginning of another COVID wave which has been expected for the last few weeks,” said Asad Umar, the minister in charge of supervising anti-COVID-19 operations, as the booster program began on January 3.

The total of 708 cases in the past 24 hours is the first time since October 30 that daily infections have exceeded 700.

A growing number of cases of the fast-spreading omicron variant have been detected in Pakistan, particularly in the largest city of Karachi, Umar tweeted.

Khalid Mahmood, a physician at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, told the Dawn newspaper that the omicron variant “is going to cause a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in our country, including [the northwestern province of] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in coming days.”

Amid growing concerns over omicron, citizens over the age of 30 who have been fully vaccinated at least six months ago will be eligible to a booster dose from January 3, according to the National Command Operation Centre, which is overseeing the pandemic response.

About 70 million people in Pakistan, or 32 percent of the population, have had two vaccine doses.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Dawn