Latest coronavirus wave almost over in Pakistan

NIH data shows only 21 cases were reported with no death: Number of everyday tests plummets to 3,000: WHO warns two Omicron sub-variants driving South Africa Covid spike: Millions in Beijing urged to work from home to fight Covid outbreak

By: News Desk
Published: 09:57 AM, 5 May, 2022
Latest coronavirus wave almost over in Pakistan
Caption: Participants wear facemasks to protect against the spread of Covid-19, at the opening general session of the 2022 ILGA World Conference (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association World Conference) in Long Beach, California.–AFP
Stay tunned with 24 News HD Android App
Get it on Google Play

The latest wave of coronavirus pandemic is almost over in Pakistan as the registered only 21 infections and no death during the last 24 hours (Wednesday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Thursday 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 1,528,419 after adding the fresh 21 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 3,096 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.67 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 107.

Two Omicron sub-variants driving South Africa Covid spike

Two new Omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in reported Covid cases in South Africa, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, stressing the importance of testing to monitor virus mutations and spread.

The heavily mutated and highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases. 

Omicron has long been known to have several sub-variants, with BA.2 by far the most dominant. 

But now the South African scientists who first identified Omicron are pointing to two other Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, "as the reason for a spike in cases" in the country, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.

In its latest epidemiological report, the UN health agency said the sub-lineages "have acquired a few additional mutations that may impact their characteristics."

Tedros said Wednesday that it was "too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other Omicron sub-variants."

However, he said, "early data suggest vaccination remains protective against severe disease and death."

With a total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of nearly 3.8 million and more than 100,000 deaths, Covid-19 has hit South Africa harder than any other country on the continent.

The nation, where fewer than 45 percent of adults have received two Covid vaccine jabs, saw a steep decline in the virus, allowing it in March to go two full days without reporting any Covid deaths -- for the first time in nearly two years.

In early April, the country lifted all Covid restrictions, but since then, cases have surged back up, jumping by close to 50 percent in the past week, according to WHO data.

- 'Essentially blind' -

"The best way to protect people remains vaccination, alongside tried and tested public health and social measures," Tedros insisted Wednesday.

The WHO has officially recorded more than 6.2 million Covid deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic, but the true toll is believed to be far higher.

The numbers of newly reported cases and deaths are now declining globally, and have now dropped to their lowest level since March 2020.

But Tedros warned that "these trends, while welcome, don't tell the full story," pointing out that reported cases were rising in the Americas and Africa, "driven by Omicron sub-variants."

The WHO has also cautioned the dwindling global numbers could be a result of significant cuts in testing for the virus.

Tedros stressed that the South African findings showed that "testing and sequencing remain absolutely critical."

"The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants were identified because South Africa is still doing the vital genetic sequencing that many other countries have stopped doing," Tedros said.

"In many countries, we're essentially blind to how the virus is mutating," he warned. "We don’t know what’s coming next."

Millions in Beijing urged to work from home

Millions of people in Beijing returned to work Thursday, many remotely, with scores of subway stations shut after a national holiday muted by the coronavirus curbs.

Chinese authorities have pressed on with their zero-Covid policy involving lockdowns and mass testing as they battle the biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic, with entire neighbourhoods in the capital sealed over handfuls of infections.

Beijing reported 50 local virus cases on Thursday, a day after it said people in its most populous district Chaoyang should work from home.

Those in the area, home to around 3.5 million, who need to visit their offices were encouraged to drive themselves and avoid gatherings.

Another Beijing district Tongzhou has also encouraged residents to work at home, while dozens of subway stations across the city remained closed.

Some employees were seen returning to their buildings on Thursday in Chaoyang, scanning their health codes that permit entry to venues.

Beijing is treading cautiously after an extended lockdown in Shanghai, China's largest city, led to food shortages and public anger.

Shanghai -- the epicentre of the latest outbreak -- reported more than 4,600 mostly asymptomatic infections on Thursday.

The moves followed an unusually quiet Labour Day holiday, with the capital banning dining at restaurants and shutting down gyms.

Domestic tourism revenues over the five-day break were down by more than 40 percent from a year ago, according to official data.

More than 40 cities in China were implementing full or partial lockdowns, or measures restricting mobility as of May 3, according to Nomura estimates.

Key cities such as Hangzhou and Beijing have also ordered more regular Covid testing.

Some curbs were being loosened, however, with Beijing announcing Wednesday that international travellers can be released from quarantine after 10 days in a centralised facility and a week of home isolation, down from a total of 21 days.

This was based on the characteristics of the Omicron virus variant, government spokesman Xu Hejian told reporters, pointing to a shorter incubation period and usually milder symptoms.

Close contacts of confirmed cases will also have a shorter centralised quarantine, officials said.

With inputs from AFP.