Pakistan posts 123 new coronavirus infections, one death

NIH data shows positivity ratio at 0.50%: South Korea drops most Covid restrictions as cases fall: Germany arrests Covid protesters

By: News Desk
Published: 09:29 AM, 15 Apr, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: Community workers wearing protective masks unload the daily supplies in a compound during a Covid-19 lockdown in Pudong district in Shanghai, China.–AFP
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Pakistan has recorded another 123 coronavirus infections and one death during the last 24 hours (Thursday) as there was a mild uptick in the positivity ratio, showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Friday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, with the addition of one death the Covid-19 toll has risen to 30,363, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,527,075 after adding the fresh 123 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Thursday), 24,239 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio inched up to 0.50 percent. The number of patients in critical care was 236.

South Korea drops most Covid restrictions

South Korea will lift almost all social distancing measures, the government said Friday, citing a dramatic fall in reported cases of Covid-19 after an Omicron-fuelled surge, but the mask mandate will remain.

South Koreans will be required to wear masks indoors "for a considerable time ahead," authorities said, adding that they may lift the requirement to mask outdoors in two weeks' time, if cases continue to fall.

"The midnight business curfew and a 10-person cap on the size of gatherings will be lifted starting Monday," said Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum.

The decision marks the end of two years of strict distancing requirements, which have put huge strain on small businesses, and indicates South Korea is returning to normality.

Restrictions on eating inside facilities such as cinemas will also be lifted from April 25.

But requiring the public to wear masks indoors was "inevitable for a considerable time ahead," to prevent another outbreak, Kim added.

Officials will reassess whether to lift the outdoor mask requirement in two weeks, he added.

Much evidence suggests the risk of transmission outdoors is extremely low, and many countries, including the United States, have said masks aren't needed outdoors for vaccinated people.

The move comes after South Korea appears to have passed the peak of an Omicron-driven outbreak, with daily cases falling to below 100,000 last week, down from a peak of over 620,000 in mid-March.

More than 86 percent of the South Korean population of 51 million has been fully vaccinated, with the majority also receiving a booster shot. 

South Korea is rolling out second boosters to vulnerable populations.

Around 20,000 people in South Korea have died from the coronavirus -- a 0.13 percent fatality rate, which is one of the world's lowest.

Germany arrests Covid protesters for kidnap plot

German investigators on Thursday said they had arrested four members of a far-right anti-lockdown group with pro-Russian leanings for planning violent attacks, including a plot to kidnap the country's health minister.

The suspects from the "Vereinte Patrioten" (United Patriots) group are accused of "preparing explosive attacks and other acts of violence" as well as the "kidnapping of well-known public figures", prosecutors in Koblenz said in a joint statement with the Rhineland-Palatinate police. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed he was among their targets and had received police protection.

A central goal of the group was to "destroy power supply facilities in order to cause a prolonged nationwide blackout", the investigators said.

"This was intended to cause civil war-like conditions and ultimately overthrow the democratic system in Germany," they said.

Investigators had identified five German suspects aged 41-55 and on Wednesday carried out searches leading to four arrests and the seizure of around two dozen guns, including a Kalashnikov.

Police also found ammunition, around 8,900 euros ($9,700) in cash, gold bars and silver coins and foreign currency worth more than 10,000 euros.

They also seized forged Covid-19 vaccination certificates, as well as several written documents about the group's plans to overthrow the state.

- 'Highly dangerous' -

The Vereinte Patrioten group includes members of the far-right Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), who reject Germany's democratic institutions, as well as opponents of the government's anti-virus measures, the prosecutors said.

Responding to the news, Lauterbach said some protesters against Covid-19 measures had become "highly dangerous".

A small minority have "not only become radicalised but are now about more than Covid and... are intent on destabilising the state and democracy," he said in a statement.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his "solidarity" with Lauterbach on Twitter. 

"Everyone in Germany is allowed to speak their mind," he said. "But our civil liberties have limits, and these are exceeded when violence is threatened."

Roger Lewentz, the interior minister for Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the group's 70 members had plotted their attacks using the Telegram encrypted messaging app.

They were supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said, expressing a wish "that Putin should also be successful here in Germany so that other systems of government could take hold here".

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the group posed a "serious terrorist threat" that Germany would counter "with the full force of the law".

Their kidnapping plans and "violent coup fantasies" represented a "new quality of threat", she said in a statement.

Germany's centre-left-led government under Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants after criticism that the previous administration had been lax on neo-Nazi violence.

- Death threats -

Investigators last week swooped on alleged neo-Nazi militant cells across Germany and arrested four suspects in what Der Spiegel magazine called "the biggest blow against the militant neo-Nazi scene in the recent past".

A suspected neo-Nazi was also charged this week with attempting to set off a "race war" in Germany with planned attacks using explosives and guns.

Germany's protests against coronavirus measures have at times drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators, attracting a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of the far-right AfD party.

The country's domestic intelligence agency last year said it would start monitoring the "Querdenker" (Lateral Thinkers) anti-lockdown movement over concerns it posed a threat to democracy and had ties to right-wing extremism.

The Telegram encrypted messaging app has played a key role in mobilising turnout at some of the most violent protests, and has also been used to spread death threats against politicians.

Police announced in February that they were setting up a special force to investigate offending posts on the app, identifying and prosecuting authors.

However, anti-lockdown protests have died down in recent weeks in Germany since the easing of virus restrictions and after a proposal for compulsory vaccination was defeated in parliament.

With inputs from AFP.