In late 2020, the World health organization WHO), with the help of partners, national authorities, institutions, and researchers began classification of COVID-19 variants. The emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health led to the classification of various Variants of Interest (VOI) and Variants of Concern (VOC). These variants emerged in different countries, with the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron variants deemed as Variants of Concern.
In this article, we will be discussing the preventive measures for the Omicron variant, its symptoms, and the measures that you can take to ensure that you do not spread the virus to other people.
What is the COVID-19 Omicron Variant?
The Omicron variant was first detected in November 2021 and since its detection, it has spread across the world with number of cases going up in many countries and hospitalization increasing especially of individuals who are unvaccinated. Experts have also witnessed cluster outbreaks i.e., a large group of people who work or live in the same vicinity getting infected with the virus at the same time, which points towards the ability of the virus to spread rapidly.
According to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), since the start of January 2022, Pakistan has also observed a sharp rise in the number of Omicron led infections.
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) has also warned Pakistani citizens about the imminent fifth wave, as the number of overall daily COVID-19 infections are on the rise. NCOC has strictly directed citizens to observe SOPs and get vaccinated at the earliest.
Preventive Measures for COVID-19 Omicron Variant
Omicron is an extremely infectious variant of COVID-19 and spreads very easily. It is the reason it is extremely important for everyone to follow safety measures and precautions very strictly.
1. Get Vaccinated for COVID-19
As per WHO the Omicron variant can evade previous immunity in people which means it can infect people who have been infected with COVID-19 in the past and are unvaccinated, as well as people who are vaccinated. In this context, the first and foremost safety precaution that you must take is getting vaccinated for COVID-19, if you already have not, or get a booster shot from a vaccination center near you. You can learn more about how to get vaccinated in Pakistan, from our guidelines via this link.
Note: The Government of Pakistan is providing booster shots for people aged 18 or above who received their final dose (e.g. 2nd dose or 1st dose for single dose vaccines) for COVID-19 six months ago.
2. Avoid Social Gatherings and Crowded Places
Omicron spreads very rapidly in crowded places, as it has high transmissibility making it extremely important to avoid social gatherings and crowded places. If a meeting is necessary than the best place to hold it is outdoors in a well-ventilated space while keeping a distance of 2 meters.
3. Wear a Face Mask
If you are meeting someone or in a crowded space, wear a three-layered tight mask to block out any aerosol particles with the virus from entering your nose or mouth.
You can learn about the different kinds of masks and their effectiveness here.
4. Cover your Nose while Sneezing
To avoid spreading COVID-19, it is best to cover your nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough or do it in your elbow.
5. Self-Quarantine in Case You Suspect Exposure to COVID-19
If you get exposed to a person with COVID-19 or if you are showing symptoms or if you test positive, immediately quarantine yourself to ensure that you don’t spread the virus to other individuals. For guidelines on quarantine, you can see this article on our website here.
6. Get Tested for COVID-19
The Government of Pakistan is providing free testing for COVID-19 across Pakistan. If you are showing any symptoms, get tested immediately from a testing center near you or call Government of Pakistan’s Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline 1166 for assistance.
Many hospitals in Pakistan are also providing a Rapid Antigen Test for COVID-19. The testing kit is also available at local pharmacies and allows self-testing to identify if your have COVID-19. The process for using these kits is mentioned in the video below.
Symptoms of the Omicron COVID-19 Variant
As per WHO unlike the common perception the illness caused by Omicron can be severe in vulnerable people who have underlying conditions or people who are unvaccinated. In some cases, causing hospitalization and death. It is very important to keep track of symptoms, get tested and seek medical attention if your symptoms get severe.
The symptoms of the Omicron variant are same as other variants, including:
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain especially lower back pain
- Nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue
- Loss of smell or taste (uncommon)
Studies show that it takes around three days for Omicron symptoms to show and for an infected individual to become contagious.
Omicron Related Updates
Update May 9, 2022: According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the first case of the highly contagious Omicron sub-variant BA.2.12.1 has been detected din Pakistan. In the wake of this development, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) is being revived by the Government of Pakistan.
Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline
You can visit the Government of Pakistan’s COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform to get information regarding COVID-19 vaccination and precautionary measures. You can also call the Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline at 1166 made available by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination, Government of Pakistan.
For queries related to COVID-19, self-quarantine, COVID-19 vaccination, and other service options in Pakistan, you can send a private message to the Bolo team via the Bolo Facebook page. Our dedicated team of moderators’ answer queries from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.