Coronavirus pandemic shows further signs of retreat in Pakistan

NIH data shows daily number of test nosediving to under 10,000, infections 39: Beijing closes dozens of subway stations as Covid controls tighten: Pfizer sees high demand for Covid-19 pill

By: News Desk
Published: 09:39 AM, 4 May, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: Workers mark a perimeter around a neighbourhood under a Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in the Jing'an district in Shanghai, China.–AFP
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There were further signs of the sinking of latest coronavirus wave in Pakistan as the country reported 39 infections and no death during the last 24 hours (Tuesday), showed the numbers released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Wednesday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, the death toll remained the same as it stood at 30,372, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,528,398 after adding the fresh 39 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Tuesday), 9,712 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.40 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 108.

Beijing closes dozens of subway stations

Beijing closed dozens of subway stations on Wednesday as Covid restrictions constrict movement around the Chinese capital despite it recording only dozens of cases daily.

China has been battling its worst coronavirus flare-up since the early days of the pandemic, with most cases found in the business hub of Shanghai.

Scenes of chaos and anger at weeks of stay-at-home orders in Shanghai have alarmed people in the capital who fear their city may be next.

On Wednesday Beijing reported just 51 local infections, five of them asymptomatic, while Shanghai reported nearly 5,000 -- part of a downward trend as Shanghai loosens some restrictions.

Some Beijing housing compounds where infections have been reported have already been locked down, while many tourist sites tightened rules for the busy May holiday this week. Dining-in at restaurants has also been banned.

Beijingers have started stocking up on essentials over worries they could suddenly be ordered to stay at home.

The China World Trade Center -- an office and shopping complex -- has been temporarily closed this week.

The city's subway operator announced the closure of about 40 stations Wednesday -- around 12 percent of the network -- many of them near locked down areas, according to an announcement on its WeChat page.

"The entrances and exits of stations will be closed... but transfers can be done within the stations," the notice said.

"I think the city is already in a semi-closed state," said one Beijing resident in a sealed compound who declined to be identified.

"There is no timetable for when our lockdown will be lifted, and more places are being sealed," he told AFP, saying freedoms were increasingly being limited.

Another Beijinger, aged 35, said he was buying groceries online to avoid contact with people at supermarkets.

"No one can really tell how long the restrictions will last... but I understand the reasoning," he said.

On Tuesday Beijing's heavily populated Chaoyang district started another round of mass testing, set to end on Thursday.

Elsewhere in China, the central city of Zhengzhou has also ramped up Covid controls, with residents in the city centre ordered to remain in their housing compounds or at home.

Authorities in Shanghai have struggled to get fresh vegetables and other essentials to people in lockdown and patients have reported trouble accessing non-Covid medical care.

Local officials have been accused of bungling their response to the virus and being overzealous with the implementation of restrictions.

Hundreds have died with Covid in Shanghai, many of them unvaccinated elderly people.

Pfizer sees high demand for Covid-19 pill as profits jump

Pfizer executives said Tuesday they are confident of strong demand for the company's Covid-19 antiviral treatment amid easing pandemic rules as the big drugmaker reported another round of strong earnings.

The US pharmaceutical giant, reporting surging first-quarter profits based on a big jump in revenues from its Covid-19 vaccine, said its Paxlovid treatment for the virus would be a valuable means for governments to limit the severity of outbreaks as they ease social distancing and masking rules.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said the company is seeing "very strong signs of increasing demand for Paxlovid as it remains one of the best tools we have."

Citing rising vaccine fatigue, Bourla said the company is also focused on a Covid-19 vaccine booster that provides immunity for a year.

"People are tired of the repeated booster, so it is extremely important to come to a vaccine that could be a yearly vaccine," Bourla told analysts on a conference call, adding that while the company has made progress on this front, "it's not technically easy to achieve."

"There's a tremendous pressure across the world to get our lives back," Bourla said of the social and political impetus to ease pandemic rules. "As a result of these things it's very clear that we will have waves" of Covid-19 infections.

- 'Rebound' risk -

The US drugmaker reported first-quarter profits of $7.9 billion, up 61 percent, based on a 77 percent surge in revenues to $25.7 billion.

Pfizer lowered its full-year adjusted profits by 10 cents to $6.25 to $6.45 a share, due in part to currency movements.

But the company confirmed its full-year revenue forecast of about $100 billion, which is an approximately 23 percent increase on the 2021 level. More than half the revenues are expected to come from the Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutic.

Pfizer, which has shipped some 3.4 billion doses of vaccine to 179 countries, has won regulatory approval for its shot in most age groups, but continues to study its use in children younger than five.

In the first quarter, Paxlovid took in $1.5 billion in global sales. But Pfizer expects 2022 sales of the medicine of $22 billion as it ramps up production and distribution.

The company expects to produce 120 million courses of the Paxlovid oral pills in 2022, with distribution programs scaling up in the United States and other markets.

The treatment has received emergency or conditional approval in 40 countries so far, the company said.

"What we are seeing is... there is demand for this product," said Pfizer biopharmaceuticals group president Angela Hwang, citing the removal of mask mandates as a factor in spreading cases. 

"What we're also seeing is that we don't have any inventory on hand," Hwang said. "Every dose that we produce is being shipped out."

Pfizer executives said they were researching "rebound" Covid-19 cases in which some patients who took Paxlovid have reported renewed symptoms. 

But company officials said the data thus far suggests that the amount of cases is small and may have to do with unusual patient characteristics rather than the drug itself. 

The World Health Organization last month "strongly recommended" the antiviral pill Paxlovid for patients with milder forms of the disease who were still at a high risk of hospitalization. 

But WHO said it was "extremely concerned" that low- and middle-income countries would be "pushed to the end of the queue" amid tight global supplies.

Shares of Pfizer rose 2.0 percent Tuesday to $49.29.

With inputs from AFP.