Pakistan on Friday said the South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants have been detected in the country, raising fears of putting a further strain on its already overwhelmed health system, a minister said.
Dr. Azra Pechuhu, the health minister of the southern Sindh province, said in a video message that at least 10 British, two South African, and one Brazilian virus variants have been detected in the country's commercial capital Karachi.
Karachi, home to over 15 million people, is the capital of Sindh, and one of the epicenters of a devastating third wave of the pandemic.
"The Brazilian and South African strains of the virus have a higher mortality rate, and the efficacy of the vaccine is not that significant against them," Pechuhu said.
This means, according to the minister, those infected by these virus strains could fall "very ill" despite being vaccinated.
Fearing a further burden on hospitals that are already struggling to cope with the growing number of COVID-19 patients, she said the spread and mortality rates of these variants are "very high."
Pakistan has already banned land and air travel from India, citing concerns about the spread of the new Indian strain of coronavirus -- a “double-mutant” variant -- considered to be responsible for a recent spike in infections in the neighboring country.
The two South Asian nuclear rivals have been grappling with a devastating COVID-19 wave, while the situation in Pakistan has been considered relatively better compared to India, where hospitals are reportedly running out of beds and oxygen supplies.
Pakistan reported over 5,000 infections and 131 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, while health authorities warned of a situation similar to that in India if the cases continued to rise at the current rate in the coming weeks.