Coronavirus kills another two, infects 72 in Pakistan

NIH data shows positivity ratio stands at 0.48%: Xi backs zero-Covid policy as Shanghai expands mass testing

By: News Desk
Published: 09:44 AM, 10 Jun, 2022
Coronavirus kills another two, infects 72 in Pakistan
Caption: Health officiasl of the Ryonmot Trolley Bus Office disinfect a trolley bus, as part of preventative measures against the Covid-19 coronavirus in Pyongyang, North Korea.–AFP
Stay tunned with 24 News HD Android App
Get it on Google Play

Pakistan after a gap of several days has recorded two coronavirus deaths and 72 infections during the last 24 hours (Thursday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Friday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, the toll has climbed up to 30,381 after adding the two deaths, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,530,886 after adding the fresh 72 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Thursday), 15,129 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.48 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 50.

Xi backs zero-Covid policy as Shanghai expands mass testing

President Xi Jinping said China must stick "unswervingly" to its zero-Covid strategy, as more than half of Shanghai's 25 million lockdown-weary residents gird Friday for a weekend virus testing drive.

China is the last major economy still pursuing a policy of stamping out all outbreaks, wielding snap lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory quarantines.

But the strategy has come under heightened scrutiny after the fast-spreading Omicron variant triggered sweeping restrictions in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, hammering the world's second-biggest economy.

Chinese leaders have attempted to thread the needle between crushing the virus and limiting the damage of lockdowns, with Xi on Thursday calling for "efficiently coordinating Covid-19 prevention and control with economic and social development".

But he said China's "dynamic zero-Covid approach must be unswervingly upheld", according to state news agency Xinhua.

Experts predict that China will struggle to meet its economic growth target of around 5.5 percent this year as virus lockdowns force business shutdowns and snarl supply chains.

The World Bank has sharply slashed its 2022 growth forecast for China to 4.3 percent, warning this week that Covid disruptions could further slow recovery.

- Shifting mosaic of curbs -

The shockwaves from China's Covid lockdowns have hit the global economy as well, especially after the lockdown in Shanghai -- the country's biggest city and a major global shipping hub.

The metropolis said Thursday it would test more than half of its residents for the coronavirus starting Saturday, less than two weeks after it began stumbling out of a gruelling lockdown marked by food shortages and scattered protests.

Shanghai loosened many restrictions last week after finally containing China's worst outbreak in two years, but skittish authorities have continued to impose a shifting mosaic of curbs to guard against a resurgence.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still unable to leave their homes, and a city health official said Thursday that residents in seven districts must get swabbed from Saturday under a drive to "test all who should be tested".

The districts -- including the financial hub of Pudong and several downtown areas -- have a combined population of about 14 million.

In many areas, people will be confined to their homes until all samples are collected.

Parts of Beijing have also reimposed some restrictions after loosening work-from-home orders and allowing restaurants in the capital to reopen for indoor dining earlier this week.

The central district of Dongcheng on Thursday ordered the closure of bars, nightclubs and internet cafes, local media reported, after the capital reported a cluster of infections linked to entertainment venues.

China reported 73 new local infections on Friday, including eight in Beijing and 11 in Shanghai, according to the National Health Commission.

Covid lab leak theory needs more research: WHO advisors

Scientists advising the World Health Organization on how to move forward investigating the origins of Covid-19 said Thursday further studies were needed into whether the disease escaped from a lab.

In its first preliminary report, the so-called Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) stressed that it had no conclusive findings on the origins of the virus behind the worst global pandemic in a century.

The team of 27 experts was set up by the WHO last year to produce a new global framework for studies into emerging pathogens with the potential of sparking epidemics or pandemics.

It has been tasked with providing an independent assessment on a way forward in the thorny investigation into the origins of the SARS CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease. 

"There are key pieces of data that are not yet available for a complete understanding of how the Covid-19 pandemic began," they acknowledged in their report, stressing that a range of further studies were needed "to follow up on several gaps in our knowledge".

- 'Zoonotic transmission' -

The experts evaluated a wide range of existing research, including the findings of a joint WHO-China scientific mission last year, as well as more recent published and unpublished studies.

They seemed to back a key finding by the joint mission that the virus most likely jumped from bats to humans via an intermediate animal, so-called zoonotic transmission.

"The strongest evidence is still around zoonotic transmission," SAGO chair Marietjie Venter told reporters, although the original host, intermediate hosts or how the virus had jumped to humans have not been identified.

But while the joint mission had deemed a competing theory that the virus may have escaped due to a laboratory incident was "extremely unlikely" and proposed no further investigation into that hypothesis, the SAGO team insisted that this issue too required further study. 

Among a long line of studies requested, the team stressed that "it remains important to consider all reasonable scientific data that is available either through published or other official sources to evaluate the possibility of the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into the human population through a laboratory incident".

The issue is highly controversial, and SAGO acknowledged that three members of the team, from China, Russia and Brazil, had objected to including the recommendation. 

- 'Need to be open-minded' -

Venter told reporters it was important to be open to various hypotheses.

"Having it in the report doesn't say that that's definitely what we think it is," she said, insisting that it merely means "we are open to scientific data... so if anything comes up that's new, we will not ignore it".

"We need to be open-minded and cover all the hypotheses, including that one," her co-chair Jean-Claude Manuguerra agreed, stressing that so far there had been no real investigation into the lab leak theory.

Among other things, the experts said access was needed to staff and data from labs both in China and elsewhere that work with coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, to assess biosafety and biosecurity practices.

This could be tricky, especially in the case of China, which has so far pushed back against suggestions of fresh international missions to the country.

WHO chief Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus insisted that it was vital that the scientific work to determine Covid's origins "be kept separate from politics".

In a briefing to member states, he said the UN health agency would strive to follow SAGO's advice, emphasising that "all hypotheses must remain on the table until we have evidence that enables us to rule certain hypotheses out".

"The longer it takes, the harder it becomes. We need to speed up and act with a sense of urgency."

With input from AFP.