It was another bad day for the country as seven more people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, in addition to a steep rise in the number of positive cases reported by the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad Wednesday morning.
According to the latest NIH stats, during the last 24 hours, 592 fresh COVID-19 cases were reported in the country after 21,264 diagnostic tests, while the positivity ratio across the country was reported as 2.78%.
Meanwhile, as compared to the previous day’s record of zero deaths, during the last 24 hours, seven more deaths were reported which brings up the death toll to 30,452 since the start of the pandemic, showed NIH data.
During the last 24 hours, a slight increase was reported in the list of COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive-care units (ICU). As per NIH, 174 patients are still being treated in hospitals around the country.
What is the COVID BA5 variant and why is it reinfecting so many people?
BA5, part of the Omicron family, is the latest coronavirus variant to cause widespread waves of infection globally.
According to the World Health Organisation’s most recent report, it was behind 52% of cases sequenced in late June, up from 37% in one week. In the United States, it is estimated to be causing around 65% of infections.
Rising case numbers
BA5 is not new. First identified in January, it has been tracked by the WHO since April.
It is a sister variant of the Omicron strain that has been dominant worldwide since the end of 2021 and has already caused spikes in case rates – even with reduced testing – in countries including South Africa, where it was first found, as well as the United Kingdom, parts of Europe, and Australia.
Coronavirus cases worldwide have now been rising for four weeks in a row, WHO data showed.
Why is it spreading
Like its closely related sibling, BA4, BA5 is particularly good at evading the immune protection afforded either by vaccination or prior infection.
For this reason, “BA5 has a growth advantage over the other sublineages of Omicron that are circulating,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, told a news briefing on Tuesday.
For many people, this means that they are getting re-infected, often even a short time after having COVID-19. Van Kerkhove said the WHO is assessing reports of re-infections.
“We have ample evidence that people who’ve been infected with Omicron are getting infected with BA5. No question about it,” said Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.