Number of Covid critical patients drops in Pakistan

NIH data shows infectivity rate going up, daily tests down: Chinese turn to traditional remedies to fight Covid: South Korea to drop most indoor mask restrictions

By: News Desk
Published: 09:55 AM, 20 Jan, 2023
Pakistan coronavirus
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The number of critical patients dropped as Pakistan posted 21 more Covid-19 infections with no death during the last 24 hours (Thursday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Friday morning, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

According to the NIH data, the death toll in the country remained the same at 30,640 whereas the number of total infections now rose to 1,576,147 after adding the fresh 21 cases. 

During the last 24 hours (Thursday), 3,627 tests were conducted throughout the country whereas the positivity ratio shot to to 0.58 percent. The number of patients in critical care stood at 09.

Chinese turn to traditional remedies to fight Covid

As Covid-19 rips through China's vast population, making millions sick and fuelling a shortage of drugs, many are turning to old-school traditional medicines to battle the aches and pains of the virus.

President Xi Jinping has promoted traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since the start of the pandemic, while health officials have hailed its "important role" in fighting the coronavirus.

Encompassing a range of treatments from herbal remedies and massages to acupuncture and diets, TCM has been used for thousands of years to treat all manner of ailments.

Critics say it is pseudoscientific and ineffective in treating actual illness, and there is little peer-reviewed data to back claims of its efficacy.

But millions in China use it, often in conjunction with modern medicine to alleviate symptoms.

Beijing consultant Yu Lei, 38, had a fever after catching Covid, so he made a herbal tea with reputed anti-inflammatory properties featuring cassia twig -- a kind of Chinese cinnamon -- peony roots, liquorice, jujubes and ginger.

"In our family, we often use Chinese medicines," he told AFP, adding that his fever subsided after drinking the brew.

According to followers like Yu, TCMs have fewer side effects and work slower to regulate the body, rather than Western medicines that "fight the symptoms but rarely the source of the illness".

Beijing has urged local authorities to "actively and objectively publicise the role and efficacy of TCM brews in the treatment of Covid-19".

However, Ben Cowling, chair of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told AFP: "We don't know whether these treatments are effective or not, because they haven't been studied in clinical trials."

"I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some of them are effective, but I also wouldn't rule out the possibility that some of them might even be harmful."

The World Health Organisation only recommends Covid treatments that are based on chemical drugs. When contacted by AFP about TCM, the body said it advised countries to "gather reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products".

- 'Same logic' –

Western medicine remains the preferred mode of care in China, but proponents of TCM say combining the two is effective in treating Covid-19.

Liu Qingquan, director of the Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, says they "complement each other and can solve fever, sore joints, fatigue, sore throat, cough and other symptoms".

Experts have taken to television to praise TCM since the start of the pandemic , with one product in particular -- Lianhua Qingwen -- benefiting from intense promotion by authorities.

Many users are convinced of its usefulness, with some studies suggesting it can help alleviate symptoms. Capsules of the medicine were given to all Hong Kong residents when a Covid wave hit the city last year.

But some online critics in China charge that Lianhua Qingwen is no more effective than peaches in syrup -- a staple comfort food for sore throats in China -- and social media users have complained of being handed the TCM instead of ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Lan Jirui, a doctor of Chinese medicine in Beijing, told AFP: "It's the same logic as Western medicine.

"If the drug is bought on the prescription of the doctor, it will probably be effective. If it is bought randomly from the pharmacy, then maybe not."

- 'Cannot kill the virus' -

Throughout the pandemic, TCM doctors and self-taught practitioners have taken to the internet to share recipes and health protocols.

Li Wen, a 68-year-old retired acupuncturist, has been pricking himself with needles to combat his flu-like condition. He also bought two Chinese medicines, including a bamboo-based anti-fever remedy.

"I supplement that with a nutritious diet of pears, turnips and ginger," he told AFP.

"Chinese medicines can be helpful to fight the virus, but cannot kill the virus," he said.

"But I remain cautious about Western drugs. Their side effects should not be overlooked."

Hoping to treat a cough and sore throat, Danni, a 39-year-old Beijinger, has been taking Pei Pa Koa, a syrup derived from plant extracts.

"It's not because I can't find Western medicine," she told AFP, "but because it's effective and soothing."

"I also make myself a hot soup of pears and hot water with lemon, to boost vitamin C and my immunity."

Some people AFP spoke to were unconvinced.

"We young people know little about traditional medicine," said Grace Hsia, a 30-year-old director. "We usually prefer Western medicines because they have immediate results."

Li Na, a 36-year-old Beijing woman, said: "I took paracetamol for a fever and it worked very quickly.

"Chinese medicines are ineffective. People take them more to reassure themselves that they are taking something."

South Korea to drop most indoor mask restrictions

South Korea will drop rules that require people to wear masks in most indoor spaces, authorities said Friday, ending one of the country's last major pandemic restrictions as Covid-19 cases dwindle.

From January 30, it will no longer be mandatory to wear facemasks in most indoor spaces, except on public transport and in medical facilities.

The mask mandate has been in place since October 2020, and is one of South Korea's last remaining pandemic-era restrictions, with other rules from business curfews to social distancing long dropped.

The country still makes it mandatory for those who get officially diagnosed with Covid to isolate themselves for seven days.

"The adjustments on the mandatory indoor mask mandate will be implemented from Monday, January 30th, after the Lunar New Year holiday," said Jee Young-mee, the head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the plan was to change the indoor mask mandate from "required to recommended," he told a government Covid response meeting.

He said the decision had been made in view of the country's solid medical response capabilities, the decreased number of critical cases and deaths from the coronavirus, and a downward trend in new infections.

"External risk factors were also judged to be sufficiently manageable," he said, in an apparent reference to Seoul's response to the recent surge in cases in China.

Seoul earlier this month implemented a host of new rules for visitors from China, including visa restrictions and testing requirements.

China last week suspended issuing short-term visas to South Koreans, in apparent retaliation for restrictions imposed on Chinese travellers over outbreak concerns.

Almost 30 million South Koreans have been infected with Covid, and more than 33,000 have died, according to official data.

The country was hit by one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China, where the coronavirus was first detected.

Its early response to the pandemic -- which involved mass testing and aggressive contact tracing while never imposing a compulsory lockdown -- was praised as a model for containing the pandemic at the time.

With inputs from AFP.

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