Coronavirus claims two more lives, infects another 52 in Pakistan

NIH data shows positivity ratio plunging to 0.37%: North Korean military ramps up Covid response as outbreak grows

By: News Desk
Published: 09:32 AM, 17 May, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: North Korean officers of the military medical field preparing to supply medicines to resolve the epidemic prevention crisis over the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, in Pyongyang.–AFP
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Pakistan has registered two coronavirus deaths and 52 infections during the last 24 hours (Monday), reported National Institute of Health Pakistan on Tuesday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, the death toll has inched up to 30,378 after adding the new fatalities, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,529,403 after adding the fresh 52 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Monday), 14,238 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.37 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 108.

North Korean military ramps up Covid response as outbreak grows

North Korean military medics ramped up the distribution of medicines to fight a growing coronavirus outbreak, state media said on Tuesday, with the number of reported cases of "fever" nearing 1.5 million.

Leader Kim Jong Un has ordered nationwide lockdowns to try and slow the spread of the disease through the unvaccinated population, and deployed the military after what he has called a botched response to the outbreak.

Hundreds of personnel in camouflage uniforms from the Korean People's Army medical units were seen rallying in the capital Pyongyang in photos released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The military "urgently deployed its powerful forces to all pharmacies in Pyongyang City and began to supply medicines under the 24-hour service system", KCNA said.

One KCNA photo showed soldiers walking next to a long line of green trucks. 

Kim had strongly criticised healthcare officials for their failure to keep pharmacies open.

North Korea's leader has put himself front and centre of the country's Covid response since its first case was announced last week, saying the outbreak is causing "great upheaval".

Authorities had reported more than 1.48 million cases of "fever" as of Monday evening, KCNA said, with the death toll at 56.

"At least 663,910 are under medical treatment," the agency said.

Authorities have stepped up media awareness campaigns and pharmaceutical factories have increased the production of medicines, KCNA reported.

- No response to South Korea -

North Korea has one of the world's worst healthcare systems, with poorly-equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid treatment drugs or mass testing ability, experts say.

"Most North Koreans are chronically malnourished and unvaccinated, there are barely any medicines left in the country, and the health infrastructure is incapable to deal with this pandemic," Lina Yoon, senior Korea researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

She urged the international community to offer medicines, vaccines and infrastructure to North Korea.

Pyongyang has so far not responded to an offer of help from Seoul, according to South Korea's unification ministry.

South Korea's new president Yoon Suk-yeol has taken a hawkish stance on his country's nuclear-armed neighbour, but told lawmakers Monday that he would "not hold back" on aid -- if Pyongyang accepts.

Despite the Covid crisis, new satellite imagery has indicated North Korea has resumed construction at a long-dormant nuclear reactor.

The United States and South Korea have warned that Kim is preparing to conduct another nuclear test -- the country's seventh.

France lifts Covid mask rule on public transport

Face masks are no longer required in metros, trains and planes in France from Monday, as French authorities lifted one of the last remaining health measures imposed since the pandemic began in 2020. 

Health minister Olivier Veran announced last week that masks would no longer be mandatory on public transport and in taxis, following the large drop in Covid cases recently.

"I feel free. Breathing properly wasn't that easy with masks," said 26-year-old Parisian Jaceula Madimba in the metro on Monday morning. 

France began easing its strict face mask rules in February after a winter surge in cases, but for weeks they were still required at the workplace or in schools until infections declined further.

Veran cautioned that the new measure did not mean the pandemic was over, and insisted that the mask remained recommended. 

"I think wearing masks is still necessary just to be safe, for my friends and family," said Aurelia Imbert, an engineer on her way to Czech Republic for work from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

Masks, as well as a health pass proving Covid vaccination, are still required for entering hospitals.

The pandemic appears under control in France for now, but some experts have warned against writing it off to the history books, as a new variant may yet emerge. 

And people with weak immune systems have expressed their concern. 

"I will continue to wear the mask and invite everyone to do so. We protect each other mutually, let us think of the immunosuppressed," said French epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik.

France has recorded just over 147,000 Covid deaths since the outbreak emerged.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain still requires masks to enter hospitals, care homes and on public transport, while in Belgium masks are only necessary on buses, trams and trains.

In Italy, masks remain obligatory in hospitals and on public transport, but also in cinemas, theatres and schools.

With inputs from AFP.