Pakistan reports four coronavirus deaths, 75 infections in 24 hours

NIH data shows positivity ratio slides to 0.35%: Cheers and jeers in US as plane mask mandates are lifted: Shanghai Covid death toll rises to 17

By: News Desk
Published: 09:20 AM, 20 Apr, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: Travellers wearing masks walk around inside John F Kennedy Airport in New York City.–AFP
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Pakistan after a break of several days has registered four deaths and another 75 coronavirus infections during the last 24 hours (Tuesday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Wednesday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, after the addition of four deaths the toll has soared to 30,368, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,527,486 after adding the fresh 75 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Tuesday), 21,278 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.35 percent. The number of patients in critical care was 215.

During the last 24 hours (Tuesday), as many as 89 patients have recovered from the virus whereas the total recoveries stood at 1,493,796. As of Wednesday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 3,322.

As many as 576,642 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 505,757 in Punjab, 219,397 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 135,165 in Islamabad, 35,483 in Balochistan, 43,306 in Azad Kashmir and 11,736 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 13,560 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,101 in Sindh, 6,323 in KP, 1,023 in Islamabad, 792 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.

 

Shanghai Covid death toll rises to 17

China reported seven Covid-19 deaths in Shanghai on Wednesday, raising the toll in the city to 17 fatalities as authorities struggled to rein in infections despite a gruelling, weeks-long lockdown.

The fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant has driven a huge spike in cases in the metropolis of 25 million people, and the government has imposed tight movement restrictions and multiple rounds of mass testing to combat the outbreak.

The lockdown has taken a heavy social and economic toll, with residents voicing their fury on social media over food shortages and lack of access to non-Covid medical care.

The seven newly reported deaths were cases with underlying conditions such as lung cancer and diabetes, city authorities said. Five of the patients were people over the age of 70.

The patients "became severely ill after admission to hospital, and died after ineffective rescue efforts, with the direct cause of death being underlying disease," the Shanghai government said in a statement.

The city reported more than 18,000 new and mostly asymptomatic coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

More than 400,000 infections have been reported in Shanghai since March, and the city reported its first Covid deaths on Monday.

The official death toll remains low compared with the reported cases, but some have cast doubt on these figures, pointing to the low vaccination rate in China's vast elderly population.

By comparison, Hong Kong -- which also has a high number of unvaccinated elderly -- has recorded nearly 9,000 deaths out of 1.18 million known cases since Omicron surged there in January.

Beijing insists its zero-Covid policy of hard lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines has averted fatalities and the public health crises seen in many other parts of the world.

But the latest lockdowns have clogged supply chains, forcing businesses to halt production.

Authorities have called for a "white list" of key industries and companies to be drawn up so production can continue, with more than 600 firms identified for early work resumption in Shanghai.

US electric car giant Tesla "officially resumed production" on Tuesday, state media reported, after suspending work at its "gigafactory" in the city for more than 20 days.

The resumption will happen in a "closed-loop system", however, with staff sleeping on site and being tested for Covid, Bloomberg News reported.

Cheers and jeers in US as plane mask mandates are lifted

Airlines, subways and bus services across the United States moved quickly Tuesday to remove mask requirements following a federal court ruling that struck down face-covering mandates on public transportation, a hot-button issue throughout the pandemic.

Uber, Lyft and Amtrak were among the firms that announced an end to masking requirements hours after the decision was released, prompting reactions from travelers on social media.

In one clip, a Delta Air Lines pilot announcing the shift mid-flight is greeted by loud cheers. "Finally!" yells one passenger.

Considerably less enthusiastic was Scott Hechinger, an expert in public defender law, who also heard cheers at the airport, but became increasingly alarmed during the flight. 

"There is so much sneezing and coughing. And people just breathing it in. Freedom," Hechinger tweeted.

Policymakers in Washington had decided last week to extend the federal mask mandate through May 3, but a federal judge struck that down on Monday, prompting an immediate wave of announcements from major airlines, including United Airlines and American Airlines.

On Tuesday, both Uber and Lyft shifted to a policy intended to be respectful of those who wish to continue wearing masks, while no longer requiring it. 

"While mask usage is still recommended, we've updated our Covid safety policies," Uber said. "Let's move forward, safely together."

Rail company Amtrak also changed its policy, announcing that while masks were no longer required, "anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so."

One prominent transportation provider holding firm was New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which will continue to require face coverings on the city's subways and buses, a spokesman said. In Washington, the Metro bus and rail system lifted its mandate.

- Majority support -

The changes come on the heels of Monday's ruling from US federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle who found that the mask mandate exceeds the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mizelle, a nominee of Republican former president Donald Trump, issued her ruling in a lawsuit filed in July 2021 by a conservative non-profit organization called the Health Freedom Defense Fund and two individual plaintiffs. 

Although the public has a "strong interest" in combating the spread of Covid-19, the judge said, the mask mandate "exceeded the CDC's statutory authority," and the agency "failed to adequately explain its decisions."

The Justice Department and CDC said late Tuesday that they disagreed with Mizelle's ruling.

They described the masking order as a "valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect public health," according to a Justice Department statement that said potential next steps depended on a CDC public health assessment.

"If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public's health after that assessment, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court's decision," the statement added.

Polling suggests continued majority support for indoor mask mandates, but with a clear minority opposed.

A YouGov America poll conducted April 18, shortly before the ruling, found 63 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support US government requirements for masks on public transport. 

Of the remainder, 19 percent were "strongly" opposed, 10 percent were "somewhat" opposed and nine percent weren't sure.

Mask requirements have been a contentious topic throughout the pandemic and have proven particularly nettlesome on planes, where there has been a sharp uptick in assaults of flight attendants.

Flight attendants have been divided on whether to maintain the rule, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union said on CNBC Tuesday.

"There's absolutely a sigh of relief from flight crews, but there are also people who are really concerned," said Nelson, adding that the union did not take a position on whether to extend the mandate.

Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, the senior Republican on the House Transportation Committee, applauded Mizelle's ruling. 

"It's about time," said Graves. "This hypocritical and overreaching mandate was never about health or science, since mask mandates were gone practically everywhere else. It's time for this mandate to go once and for all."

But Tatiana Prowell, an oncology professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said she was hearing from those who are immunocompromised and others with cancer.

"In addition to wearing N95 masks, I'm advising them to travel on less popular days/times if possible during the pandemic for fewer crowds," Prowell said on Twitter.

With inputs from AFP.