Pakistan reports over 200 coronavirus infections, one death

NIH data shows everyday number of tests crossed to over 17,000, positivity ratio dips to 1.24%: Chinese city of 16 million to shut down over new Covid outbreak: EU watchdog set to approve first Omicron jabs: Pandemic-weary nurses strike in Australia

By: News Desk
Published: 11:16 AM, 1 Sep, 2022
Pakistan reports over 200 coronavirus infections, one death
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Pakistan has reported 219 coronavirus infections and one death during the last 24 hours (Wednesday) though the number of everyday tests has risen to over 17,000, showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Thursday morning, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

As per the NIH data, the death toll in the country rose to 30,581 with the addition of one fatality while the number of total infections now stood at 1,569,295 after adding the fresh 219 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 17,628 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 1.24 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 117.

Chinese city of 16 million to shut down over new Covid outbreak

Around 16 million people in the Chinese city of Chengdu will be effectively under lockdown from Thursday as authorities race to snuff out a new Covid-19 outbreak.

China is the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid policy, stamping out virus flare-ups with snap shutdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.

Chengdu, in the southwest, has become the latest to announce a shutdown, saying in an official notice that residents must "stay home in principle" from 6 pm on Thursday to combat a new wave of infections.

Each household will be allowed to send one person out to buy groceries and essential goods per day, provided they have tested negative in the previous 24 hours, the notice said.

It said that all residents would be tested for the virus between Thursday and Sunday, and urged them not to leave the city unless "absolutely necessary".

"The current state of epidemic control is abnormal, complex and grim," the announcement said, adding that the measures aimed to "decisively arrest the spread of the outbreak and guarantee the health of all citizens".

Chengdu recorded 157 new local infections on Thursday, of which 51 displayed no symptoms, the city government said in a separate notice.

Children in at least 10 cities and provinces are facing disruption to the new academic year as pandemic controls force schools to switch to measures like online learning, according to a report on Thursday by a media outlet affiliated with the state-run People's Daily.

Xining, the capital of western Qinghai province and home to 2.5 million people, has ordered schools to conduct lessons online, rolled out a mass testing drive and told residents in its main urban area to work from home for three days.

China has stuck fast to its zero-tolerance virus strategy despite disruptions from the fast-spreading Omicron strain and concern that the approach is stifling its post-pandemic economic recovery.

Last month, travellers in the southern island province of Hainan protested after more than 80,000 tourists were stranded in a resort city because of a Covid-19 flare-up.

Social media videos from the eastern megacity of Shanghai showed panicked crowds fleeing an Ikea store and another building as officials tried to impose local lockdowns in response to two suspected cases.

EU watchdog set to approve first Omicron jabs

The EU's drug regulator is on Thursday expected to authorise the first Covid-19 vaccines for the Omicron variant, although they do not target the latest strains.

The adapted vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna will be discussed during an extraordinary meeting of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

European nations have been keen to rush through the new generation of jabs so they can start booster campaigns ahead of a feared Covid surge this winter.

The two so-called "bivalent" vaccines protect against the earlier BA.1 strain of Omicron, as well as the original Covid virus that emerged in China in 2019.

They do not however target the newer and more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 types, which have emerged in recent months as the dominant strains worldwide.

"The aim of the meeting is to conclude the evaluation of the two applications, if possible," the Amsterdam-based EMA said.

"We will communicate on the outcomes of the meeting on 1 September."

The agency has said it hopes to approve a separate Pfizer vaccine adapted for the BA.4 and BA.5 types "in the fall".

The United States authorised its first anti-Omicron vaccines on Wednesday, approving Pfizer and Moderna jabs that were adapted to tackle BA.4 and BA.5.

Britain authorised the Moderna vaccine for the BA.1 type in mid-August.

- New wave -

The 27-nation EU is currently still using the same coronavirus vaccines that were approved nearly two years ago for use against the original strain.

While they offer some protection against newer variants, the race has been on to produce jabs that also target the milder but more infectious Omicron strains.

While previous "variants of concern" like Alpha and Delta eventually petered out, Omicron and its sublineages have dominated throughout 2022.

The BA.4 and BA.5 types have in particular helped to drive a wave of new cases of the disease in Europe and the United States in recent months.

Health authorities have therefore been keen to get updated vaccines as soon as possible ahead of a feared new wave of the disease later this year.

All Omicron variants tend to have a milder disease course as they settle less in the lungs and more in the upper nasal passages, causing symptoms like fever, tiredness and loss of smell.

The EMA said its review of the adapted Pfizer and Moderna vaccines focused on data from laboratory studies and from tests on the immune response against the original strain and the Omicron variant.

The adapted vaccines under consideration Thursday "more closely match the original strain and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant", the agency said.

Pandemic-weary nurses strike in Australia

Nurses in Australia's most populous state went on strike Thursday, demanding better conditions after three years on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis.

The 24-hour strike was the third statewide walkout by nurses and midwives this year, and came as tensions between essential workers and the New South Wales government reached the boiling point.

Train drivers have crippled Sydney's rail network in recent weeks with rolling strikes, while bus drivers and teachers across the state have also been locked in industrial disputes.

Outside Westmead Hospital in Sydney, a large crowd of striking medical workers formed a picket line, cheering loudly each time a passing driver beeped their car horn in support.

One nurse held aloft a sign that read: "Stop telling us that we are 'coping'".

The union has called for a legally-enforced ratio of patients to nurses, warning care has been compromised because there are too many people coming into hospitals for help and too few staff on the wards.

Michael Whaites, assistant general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, told the crowd that patients had been kept in emergency for up to 110 hours because there were not enough hospital beds.

"The system is sick, and we are sick and tired of carrying the weight of it on our backs," he said.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, tight restrictions saw Australia maintain one of the lowest death rates among wealthy nations -- but this year case numbers have exploded, straining an already struggling health system.

Soaring inflation in Australia has also ratcheted up years of tension over nurses' pay, after annual increases for many public sector workers were frozen by the state government early in the pandemic.

In June, after two statewide strikes, the centre-right New South Wales government offered workers a Aus$3,000 ($2,000) bonus and promised to recruit more nurses and midwives.

But Whaites said Thursday the government's recruitment promise was just "shoving more people into a system as more and more people leave".

The New South Wales government has also faced mounting pressure from workers in other essential industries, including the striking train drivers.

State premier Dominic Perrottet, who in March will face an election, threatened on Wednesday to tear up the state's offer to rail workers if there were any further strikes.

"This ends today," he said.

With inputs from AFP.