Coronavirus infects 67 more in Pakistan
NIH data shows infectivity rate dips to 43%: WHO warns North Korea Covid outbreak likely 'getting worse'
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The number of everyday coronavirus infections remained low as Pakistan recorded 67 Covid-19 cases and no death during the last 24 hours (Wednesday), showed the figures released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Thursday morning.
During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 15,442 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.43 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 72.
COVID-19 Statistics 02 June 2022— NIH Pakistan (@NIH_Pakistan) June 2, 2022
Total Tests in Last 24 Hours: 15,442
Positive Cases: 67
Positivity %: 0.43%
Patients on Critical Care: 72
During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), another 51 people recovered from the Covid-19 and the number of total recoveries now stood at 1,496,741. As of Thursday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 3,400.
As many as 577,594 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 507,221 in Punjab, 219,696 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 135,422 in Islamabad, 35,501 in Balochistan, 43,337 in Azad Kashmir and 11,749 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
As many as 13,564 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,106 in Sindh, 6,324 in KP, 1,024 in Islamabad, 792 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.
The World Health Organization lamented Wednesday that it had no access to data about North Korea's Covid-19 outbreak, but assumed the crisis was deepening, contrary to Pyongyang's reports of "progress".
But WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan questioned that claim.
"We assume that situation is getting worse not better," he told reporters, acknowledging though that the secretive totalitarian state had provided only very limited information.
"Right now we are not in a position to make an adequate risk assessment of the situation on the ground," he said, pointing out that "it is very, very difficult to provide a proper analysis to the world when we don't have access to the necessary data."
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's lead on Covid-19, meanwhile said the country had registered more than three million suspected Covid cases, although the official accounts only mention cases of "fever".
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported early Thursday some 96,600 "fevered cases" in 24 hours, for a total of 3.8 million cases since late April. No new deaths were announced, with 69 fatalities as of late last week.
It was the third consecutive daily tally of less than 100,000, down from a high of 390,000 daily cases in mid-May, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
Despite having one of the worst health systems in the world, KCNA reported Thursday that more than 95 percent of cases had recovered.
"There are many recoveries that have been reported, but there's limited information that we have from the country currently," Van Kerkhove said.
North Korea has also rejected jabs offered by the WHO and not vaccinated any of its roughly 25 million people.
Ryan stressed the importance of reining in the outbreak in the impoverished country.
"We have offered assistance on multiple occasions. We have offered vaccines on three separate occasions. We continue to offer," he said.
He said the UN health agency was working with China and South Korea in a bid to get aid in, hailing "a very positive attitude towards trying to deal with this collective problem."
The WHO has repeatedly cautioned against allowing the virus that causes Covid-19 to spread unchecked, among other things since it then is more likely to mutate and produce new, potentially more dangerous variants.
"We do not wish to see intense transmission of this disease in a mainly susceptible population, in a health system that has already weakened," Ryan said.
"This is not this is not good for the people of (North Korea). This is not good for the region. This is not good for the world."
EU green lights Covid recovery cash for Poland
The European Commission on Wednesday approved Poland's 35.4-billion-euro ($38 billion) post-Covid economy recovery package, which had been held up for more than a year over concerns about judicial independence.
However it said in a statement that disbursement comes with strings attached, namely that "Poland must adopt a reform of the disciplinary regime for judges", in line with EU demands.
"The European Commission has today given a positive assessment of Poland's recovery and resilience plan," the EU executive said after a meeting of the bloc's commissioners.
Some of the commissioners -- including influential executive vice presidents Margrethe Vestager, a centrist, and social democrat Frans Timmermans -- opposed the decision.
Two more commissioners who were not present for the vote -- itself a rare mechanism on a body that usually operates by consensus -- also expressed reservations, European sources said.
The statement stressed that Poland had committed to "strengthening certain aspects of the independence of the judiciary" -- even though those changes have not as yet been codified.
The decision seeks to move past an impasse between Brussels and Warsaw that had festered while the EU strived to maintain unity to address the war in Ukraine.
Poland, which borders Ukraine, is on the frontline of the EU solidarity effort.
It is the main entry point into the bloc for the nearly seven million Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country.
And it serves as the logistics hub for weapons sent from EU countries and the United States into Ukraine.
- Rolling fines -
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was to travel to Warsaw on Thursday to present the plan under which Poland would receive its billions from an EU coronavirus Recovery and Resilience Facility.
But the commission already declared in a statement that "before the first payment request... Poland must demonstrate" that it is meeting its commitments on its judiciary.
The requirements call for Poland to reverse moves by Warsaw's populist government to subject judges to a disciplinary mechanism that has been rejected by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
In October, the court hit Poland with daily fines of one million euros for refusing to suspend the disciplinary chamber. The fines now amount to more than 200 million euros.
Polish President Andrzej Duda sought to draw a line under the dispute by putting forward a draft law to scrap the controversial chamber, which his country's parliament adopted last week.
But the Polish senate is yet to approve the bill.
The opposition has called it an "illusion" while judges' groups say it does not remove concerns about the politicisation of the judiciary.
One condition for Poland to get its Covid recovery cash calls for judges' disciplinary cases to be heard by a court compliant with EU law that is not the disciplinary chamber.
Another is that judges already affected by disciplinary chamber rulings must have the right to have the decision reviewed by an EU-compliant court "without delay".
Also, judges cannot be hit with disciplinary procedures for asking the EU Court of Justice to rule on certain issues.
- Russia feud -
If the shift in positions by Warsaw and Brussels resolves the dispute, it would allow the EU to focus more attention on Hungary, another eastern member of the bloc seen as undermining European democratic norms.
Poland and Hungary were allies against what their governments viewed as overbearing EU diktats, protecting each other from punishment by blocking decisions that might have been taken against the other.
But that tie is fraying as Poland champions a stronger stance against Russia while Hungary has been playing spoiler on EU moves against Moscow.
With inputs from AFP.