KARACHI - Authorities in Pakistan are investigating the first possible case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in the South Asian nation, a provincial health ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.

The health ministry spokesperson in the southern province of Sindh said the infection was found in an unvaccinated patient being treated at a private hospital in Pakistan's most populous city of Karachi.

The official initially said contact tracing was underway and the patient had travelled abroad, but later Sindh authorities said they were uncertain of the person's travel history.

Pakistan's National Institute of Health (NIH) later issued a statement saying the case was not yet confirmed.

"To clarify, the sample is not yet confirmed to be Omicron via whole genome sequencing, which is to be performed after obtaining the sample," the NIH said.

Pakistan had tightened rules on Monday on inbound flights, largely banning entry from several southern African nations in the wake of growing concerns over the Omicron variant which was first detected in Southern Africa and Hong Kong.

The health minister for Sindh province in a video statement urged citizens in the province to get a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine.

Pakistan reported 350 new cases of COVID-19 in the past day, taking the total number to 1.28 million. Ten deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 28,800.


(Reporting Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Kim Coghill) ((charlotte.greenfield@thomsonreuters.com; +92 300 856 6702; Reuters Messaging: charlotte.greenfield.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))