Pakistan sees 1,502 new Covid-19 cases, 20 deaths
NCOC steps into check coronavirus spread: US cases hit record for third day, topping 127,000
With 1,502 new coronavirus cases reported during the past 24 hours (Friday), Pakistan recorded its highest daily count in over three months [it was 1,487 on July 25], raising the overall number of infections to 341,753.
The daily count is continuously on the rise since October 30 when 807 people were diagnosed with the virus, representing an over 87 percent increase in the number.
On the other hand, another 20 coronavirus patients died on Friday after which the death in the country has jumped to 6,943, showed the latest figures released by National Command and Operation Centre on Saturday morning. The daily deaths stood at 30 and 26 on the previous two days.
The region-wise distribution of the coronavirus cases is given as: Sindh 148,922, Punjab 106,208, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 40,285, Islamabad 21,302, Balochistan 16,041, Azad Kashmir 4,652 and Gilgit-Baltistan 4,343.
It means the trend is persistent with most of these new coronavirus infections reported in Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad.
Also on Friday, the number of people fully recovering from the infection increased to 317,898. Hence, a total of 324,841 cases have so far closed [deaths + number of people recovering from infection] in the country.
Meanwhile, the number of active cases in the country jumped to 16,912 with the net addition of over 600 new patients.
There was again an increase in hospitalisation rate as the number reached 1,057 against 995 reported a day earlier.
Out of the hospitalised patients, 890 are receiving treatment in intensive care units due to their critical condition. Meanwhile, 129 of these critically ill patients have been placed on ventilators.
The day also saw 34,400 tests being administered in different parts of the country after which the overall number has reached 4,643,913.
NCOC springs into action
Sensing an urgent need for steps to check the coronavirus spread, the NCOC directed public and private companies to implement a 50% “work from home” policy.
The NCOC also banned indoor weddings and allowed up to 1,000 guests in outdoor functions. The notification said major cities with a high positivity rate and higher disease spread potential will be asked to enforce the ban.
The rule pertains to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Hyderabad, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Peshawar, Quetta, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, and Abbottabad.
The decision will go into effect from November 20, 2020.
Furthermore, beginning November 7, the NCOC has directed the implementation of a "Gilgit-Baltistan model" whereby face masks must be made compulsory in the aforementioned cities.
In GB, failure to do so results in a penalty of Rs100 and three masks issued on the spot. Authorities have been advised to issue similar penalties in these locations.
In areas identified as hotspots, relatively broader smart lockdowns have also been recommended.
Last month, NCOC said that it has observed wedding halls and indoor restaurants to be "high contributors" to the spread of the contagious disease.
US cases hit record for third day
The United States has set a third straight daily record for new Covid-19 infections, notching more than 127,000 cases, John Hopkins University reported Friday. And the death toll as of 8:30 pm (0130 GMT) over the past 24 hours was 1,149, the Baltimore-based university said.
The outbreak has been surging for weeks across the country, with the Midwest worst-hit even as the number of new diagnoses were approaching springtime levels in the south, northeast and west.
While deaths remain far lower than the peak in spring, Friday was also the fourth day in a row that fatalities were above 1,000. The last time people were dying of Covid-19 at that rate in the US was early September.
As of Friday evening, the US -- the worst hit country in the world in terms of deaths and total cases -- had more than 236,000 coronavirus-related fatalities and 9.7 million known infections.
Cases are expected to increase as the country moves into colder weather and people switch to socializing primarily indoors, prime conditions for passing the virus from person to person.
Colder, drier weather might also play a role in creating favourable conditions for the virus to linger in air and on surfaces.
Reasons that deaths are down from their peak include the fact that as cases are more spread out geographically than they were at the start of the US epidemic, hospitals are better able to cope with the caseload.
Doctors have also learned how to better treat severe cases of Covid-19 -- by placing patients on their stomachs, avoiding the use of ventilators where possible and using them on low-pressure settings if they are required, and, perhaps most crucially, using steroids such as dexamethasone to tamp down a destructive autoimmune response known as a cytokine storm.
Since a greater proportion of people getting infected are younger, they are also less likely to develop severe forms of the disease.
Two vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, say they might be ready to apply for emergency use authorizations towards the end of the month.
But if and when vaccines do become available, they're only expected to be moderately effective, meaning that people will need to continue to adhere to masking, social distancing and hand hygiene to bring an end to the pandemic.
Portugal declares health emergency
Portugal's president on Friday declared a state of health emergency that will come into force next week to allow the government to impose further coronavirus restrictions.
In a televised appearance, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said he had just signed a decree "relating to a second state of emergency" since the start of the pandemic that will last at least two weeks.
It will be "very limited and largely preventative" but "paves the way for new measures such as restricting traffic to certain times and certain days, in highest risk municipalities," he said.
The government will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Saturday to decide what type of measures to introduce.
These could include a night-time curfew similar to what has been implemented in other European nations, or taking people's temperature at some locations.
During the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, Portuguese authorities decreed a six-week state of emergency.
Some 7.1 million people are currently living under new restrictions and have been asked to stay home and work remotely as far as possible.
But unlike the first spring lockdown, schools remain open, along with shops and restaurants, though they have to close earlier. Since the start of the pandemic, Portugal has reported close to 167,000 cases and more than 2,700 deaths.
With inputs from AFP.