Receding coronavirus strikes back, claims three lives in Pakistan

NIH data shows another 46 people infected: Number of critical patients falls below 100 after many months: Covid curbs push China off global sporting map

By: News Desk
Published: 09:32 AM, 8 May, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus at a makeshift testing site along a street in Beijing.–AFP
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The receding coronavirus struck back and claimed three lives in Pakistan along with infecting another 46 people during the last 24 hours (Saturday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Sunday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, the death toll has climbed up to 30,375, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,528,531 after adding the fresh 46 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Saturday), 11,021 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.42 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 91.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has rejected the World Health Organization's (WHO) report on number of Covid-19 deaths in the country, questioning the United Nations body's methodology to collect data and supposing an error in the software used to collate the numbers.

In a recent report, the WHO estimated there were 260,000 Covid-19 deaths in Pakistan -- eight times the official figure. Official records state Pakistan had 30,375 Covid-19 deaths with over 1.5 million infections.

"We [authorities] have been gathering data manually on Covid deaths, it could have a difference of a few hundred but it can't be in hundreds of thousands. This is completely baseless," Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said.

According to the WHO report, nearly 15 million people were killed either by the coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the past two years across the world, more than double the official death count of 6 million. Most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Minister Patel said the government has explained the calculation process to the WHO in a note rejecting the world health body's numbers. He said the methodology of data collection is questionable, adding that authorities in Pakistan collected the figures from hospitals, union councils, and graveyards.

He suspected "some error" in the data collection software used by the WHO which has been "showing figures in average", according to the Samaa News report.

Covid curbs push China off global sporting map

China's ambitions to be a global sporting hub took a heavy blow as the postponement of this year's Asian Games further isolated a country already cut off by its hardline zero-Covid strategy.

The ruling Communist Party burnished its global image with an array of dazzling spectacles such as Beijing's 2008 Summer and 2022 Winter Olympics, tennis and golf tournaments featuring all the world's leading stars, and a showpiece annual Formula One grand prix. 

The country also wants to host football's World Cup.

But with the exception of this year's Winter Olympics -- held in a virus-secure, closed-loop Beijing bubble in February -- the world's most populous nation has cancelled or postponed almost all events since Covid emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.

The Olympic-sized Asian Games became the latest and biggest casualty on Friday as organisers decided to delay the multisports extravaganza "after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the Games".

No new dates have yet been given for the continental showpiece, originally scheduled for September 10 to 25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou with around 10,000 athletes due to compete across 40 sports.

The World University Games due to begin next month in Chengdu were also postponed for a second time citing "continued uncertainty over conditions". 

They were part of a blitz of announcements on Friday as the Asian Youth Games were also cancelled, having been delayed once already, and two prestigious Diamond League athletics meetings later this year in Shanghai and Shenzhen were shelved.

China's costly and labour-intensive Winter Olympics bubble -- when participants took daily Covid tests and were not allowed to mix with the public -- now appears to have been the exception rather than the rule, experts said.

- Sport in limbo -

The Winter Olympic Games "were a huge political priority and nothing was going to stop them", said Mark Dreyer, author of "Sporting Superpower: An Insider's View on China's Quest to Be the Best".

"The Asian Games are big, but not big enough," he told AFP.

Beijing maintained strict Covid measures including snap lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines to extinguish outbreaks even as other countries learn to live with the virus.

Event calendars will remain in limbo as long as China sticks with zero-Covid, Dreyer said.

A revamped FIFA Club World Cup has already been suspended indefinitely, while big-ticket events such Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix and ATP Tour's Shanghai Masters tennis have fallen by the wayside since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in early 2020.

The World Golf Championships HSBC-Champions tournament has not been held since 2019, when won by former world number one Rory McIlroy.

Stringent conditions leave any visiting athletes facing multiple Covid tests, difficult entry rules, reduced flights and potentially long isolation periods if they test positive.

Beijing has maintained that its Covid policy has saved lives, and one Chinese expert told AFP he saw "no problem" with the country continuing to bid for major tournaments.

"Once the pandemic has been brought under control, these events will be great spectacles," he said, requesting anonymity to speak freely.

"It's very good that the government controls outbreaks so strictly. If other countries don't get it, that's not our problem."

- Unique restrictions -

But Dreyer argued uncertainty over Beijing's Covid policy may force some to reconsider their China ties.

"Nowhere else has these restrictions," he said.

"At what point do sporting bodies say: 'Sorry, no, you can't just keep postponing these events, because Covid's not an excuse'?"

Global sports organisations have closely courted China in recent years, eyeing the revenue to be made from the country's vast market.

Influential Chinese sports blogger Du Liyan said the notion that foreign sports capital would abandon the country was "not very realistic".

"China's market is still quite large, and its sports industry is still in its infancy and showing considerable growth," he told AFP.

But foreign sports organisations have also faced headaches in China as political rows have diverted from the sporting agenda.

The Women's Tennis Association pulled out of the country last year following sexual abuse claims by Peng Shuai against a former top Communist Party politician.

And the hugely popular NBA was frozen out after a team official tweeted support for Hong Kong democracy protesters in 2019.

Those problems are creating a "perfect storm" for disengagement with the Chinese market, according to Dreyer, adding: "China is seen increasingly as not worth the trouble."

With inputs from AFP.