Pakistan registered its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases – 7,678 – in the last 24 hours, up from 6,808, the second-highest daily toll, since the pandemic started in 2020, official figures showed Friday morning. The country had last seen the highest number of coronavirus cases on June 13, 2020, with the country reporting 6,825 infections. Further, 23 fatalities were also reported during this period while the national positivity rate rose to 12.93 per cent. According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the number of active cases rose to over 57,000 while 961 patients were in critical care. The data also showed that Karachi had the highest positivity rate in the country at 45.43pc, followed by 23.94pc in Muzaffarabad and 18.91pc in Islamabad. The latest surge in cases is being driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus which has triggered a fifth wave of the disease in the country. Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Health Services urged citizens to get vaccinated and to wear face masks. “As the Omicron variant surges, we are seeing a drastic increase in the number of Covid-19 cases this month,” it said. Earlier this week, the NCOC banned indoor gatherings, weddings and dining in districts and cities with Covid-19 positivity rate exceeding 10pc as part of new curbs meant to tackle the fifth wave. Pakistan has also started administering booster doses to the population. Earlier, people who were 30 years or older and immunocompromised individuals above 12 years of age could receive a booster dose. However, the NCOC later reduced the age limit, allowing citizens over 18 to receive booster jabs. Health Services Academy Vice Chancellor Dr Shahzad Ali Khan said the reason behind the rapid rise in the number of cases was the highly transmissible Omicron variant. “It seems that Omicron has adapted and has become highly infective as it can stay in the environment or air for a longer period. However, there are both positive and negative aspects of the new variant. The negative side is that whatever precautions we take, we will be infected. But those who are vaccinated will have mild symptoms and there less possibility of them spreading the virus,” he said. “Those who are not vaccinated may develop severe complications and they could become a factory or producer of the next variant, which can be very virulent,” Dr Khan warned. He warned that due to its highly transmissive nature, Omicron would definitely tax all available health resources, adding that it would be essential to ensure human resource was available in hospitals and medical facilities to treat the caseload. He also pointed out that Omicron had severely infected healthcare workers and suggested that they should be made to wear N-95 masks and asked to avoid socialising.