Coronavirus taking its last breaths in Pakistan

NIH data shows only 40 infections, one death recorded with infectivity ration plunging to 0.25%: Beijing tourist sites empty in Covid-stalked public holiday

By: News Desk
Published: 09:31 AM, 2 May, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: Community volunteers give haircuts to residents in a compound during a Covid-19 lockdown in Pudong district in Shanghai, China.–AFP
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The latest wave of coronavirus is taking its last breaths in Pakistan as the country registered only 40 infections and one death during the last 24 hours (Sunday), showed the figures released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Monday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, after the addition of another death the toll has inched up to 30,372, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,528,313 after adding the fresh 40 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Sunday), 16,165 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.25 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 111.

Beijing tourist sites empty in Covid-stalked public holiday

Major Beijing tourist venues were virtually deserted Sunday and restaurant traffic ground to a standstill, as a typically bustling public holiday was overshadowed by a Covid outbreak that has shunted millions under lockdown nationwide.

China's staunch zero-Covid policy has kept the virus at bay for more than two years but it is currently facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic thanks to an Omicron-fuelled wave.

Millions across the country -- particularly in economic engine Shanghai -- have been pushed to stay at home for weeks, as the lockdowns have dampened economic growth and investor sentiment in the world's second-largest economy. 

Beijing so far has reported over 300 cases under the current wave, and authorities on Saturday banned city-wide dining services starting Sunday to May 4 -- an attempt to curb infections during a holiday that is typically an annual peak consumption period. 

"It will have a definite impact on sales," a restaurant employee surnamed An told AFP, as she scanned for customers around Beijing's Dongcheng district -- home to historic attractions like the Forbidden City.

Eateries nearby were shuttered, with some only allowing customers to order takeout if they have a negative covid test.

This restriction is the latest measure ordered by Beijing authorities, who say all visitors to public spaces must have a negative test result within the past 48 hours.

"Of course we will abide by the country's rules," An said. But "we make less profit through delivery and our sales volume is lower". 

The Temple of Heaven -- one of China's biggest historical attractions -- is usually heaving with tens of thousands of visitors a day elbowing each other. But on Sunday, masked families could snap selfies without any interruptions along the imperial complex.

Even the downtown shopping street Wangfujing -- a commerce heaven of food stalls and fashionable outlets -- was deserted. 

At a restaurant not far from the unusually quiet Forbidden City palace complex, stacks of marinated chicken feet, flatbreads and cold cuts in takeaway containers languished on an outdoor table as staff chatted idly inside. 

"Obviously it's bad in terms of our own self-interest, but it's necessary overall for the good of the country," said a young waiter who did not give his name.

"We would normally sell 10,000 yuan ($1,500) worth of food in a day, but now it's only 1,000 to 2,000 yuan ($300)," he added.

Instead of entering the Forbidden City, lines of people waited outside the palace complex to get a swab test -- a new normal for Beijing residents.

- Universal Studios shuttered -

About 30 kilometres (24 miles) east of the palace on the city's outskirts, Universal Studios -- Beijing's largest Western theme park boasting a Jurassic World and Harry Potter-themed zones -- announced its indefinite closure Sunday. 

It was launched in September and has seen more than two million visitors in five months.

The Labour Day holiday was supposed to be a massive commercial coup for the park -- which earlier this week had initially required a negative Covid test within 24 hours of visiting. 

The capital reported 59 new infections Sunday, as officials announced the reopening of a Covid quarantine hospital that has not been mobilised since the pandemic's first wave in 2020.

All indoor fitness activities -- like public gyms and pools -- were suspended starting Sunday until May 4, while authorities say about 4,000 makeshift hospital beds had been prepared and larger quarantine centres were being constructed.

"There still exists a small number of hidden infected (patients) found through community screening," Beijing health official Pang Xinghuo said at a Sunday briefing.

"The epidemic is overall at a high plateau period."

Meanwhile in Shanghai, officials declared Sunday that "community transmission risk has been effectively curbed" and that daily infections are trending downwards.

The financial hub of 25 million has been locked down for almost a month, with residents complaining of food shortages and lack of timely medical care.

Taiwan will not 'cruelly' lock down like China

Taiwan will not act "as cruelly as China" in imposing lockdowns, its premier said Sunday, despite surging coronavirus infection numbers.

The self-governing island recorded more than 10,000 new cases for the first time on Thursday, as the government moves from its zero-Covid strategy and begins living with the virus.

That figure hit 16,936 on Sunday.

Taiwan's shift leaves neighbouring China -- including its financial hub Hong Kong -- as the only major economy still sticking to a zero-tolerance policy even as Omicron breaks through defences and forces painful lockdowns.

"We will not lock down the country and cities as cruelly as China," Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters before a top government meeting on pandemic prevention.

"Countries all over the world have been opening up to live with the virus. Taiwan... will continue to move towards living normal lives and gradually head to a new phase in epidemic prevention," he said at the meeting.

The barbed comment from Su -- whose ruling party leans towards Taiwanese independence -- comes after years of heightened tension between China and the island, which Beijing views as part of its territory.

Taiwan has largely closed its borders and implemented strict quarantine rules throughout the pandemic, keeping infection numbers low.

An outbreak last year prompted the temporary reimposition of economically painful social distancing measures until it was brought under control.

Infections are once again rising but the island's leaders have signalled they will follow other former zero-Covid economies such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand by opening up.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung warned last week that Taiwan's daily case count could more than double to 37,000 in a week.

But, according to Taiwan's health ministry, more than 99.7 percent of 89,990 infections recorded since January 1 this year have been mild or asymptomatic.

Around 80 percent of the population are double vaccinated, while nearly 60 percent have taken a third shot.

The government has begun a new plan to shorten home isolation for close contacts of Covid-19 cases to three days, down from 10, if a rapid antigen test proves to be negative at the end of the isolation period.

It is also considering relaxing the 10-day quarantine rules for foreign arrivals.

Since the pandemic began Taiwan has reported 132,955 cases and 868 related deaths.

With inputs from AFP.