Pakistan logs 468 coronavirus cases, two deaths

NIH data shows positivity ratio inches up to 2.64%: Iran approves locally-developed Barkat vaccine: India records 11,539 Covid-19 cases, 34 deaths

By: News Desk
Published: 11:07 AM, 21 Aug, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: Representational image.
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Pakistan has added to its total tally another 468 coronavirus infections and two deaths during the last 24 hours (Saturday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Sunday morning, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

As per the NIH data, the death toll in the country now surged to 30,552 after adding the two new fatalities while the number of total infections now stood at 1,566,236 after adding the fresh 468 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Saturday), 17,749 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 2.64 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 160.

During the last 24 hours (Saturday), another 506 patients have recovered from the Covid-19 in Pakistan and the number of total recoveries now stood at 1,526,198. As of Sunday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 9,486.

As many as 592,886 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 519,674 in Punjab, 222,883 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 138,729 in Islamabad, 35,922 in Balochistan, 44,154 in Azad Kashmir and 11,988 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 13,597 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,218 in Sindh, 6,345 in KP, 1,030 in Islamabad, 793 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.

 

India records 11,539 Covid-19 cases, 34 deaths

India on Sunday recorded 11,539 fresh coronavirus infections that pushed its tally to 4,43,39,429, while the number of active cases came down to 99,879, according to health ministry data.

The toll due to Covid-19 climbed to 5,27,332 with 34 fatalities, including nine deaths reconciled by Kerala, the data updated at 8 am stated.

The active cases comprise 0.23 percent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate stands at 98.59 percent, the ministry said.

The daily positivity rate was recorded at 3.75 percent and the weekly positivity rate at 3.88 percent, the ministry said.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,37,12,218, while the case fatality rate stands at 1.19 percent, it said.

So far, 209.67 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered under the nationwide vaccination drive, it added.

India’s Covid-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19.

India crossed the grim milestone of two crore on May 4, three crore on June 23 last year and four crore on January 25 this year.

Amid Covid surge, Iran approves locally-developed Barkat vaccine

As Iranian regulators considered endorsing a locally-developed coronavirus vaccine a year ago, a top health official issued a stern warning, saying the test results were insufficient and the vaccine’s approval could undermine efforts to contain the country’s raging epidemic, reported Washington Post.

Deputy Health Minister Farid Najafi wrote to his boss that allowing use of the vaccine by the general public before it met scientific standards “is a serious and historic decision that will determine the future of public confidence in the health system.”

But the vaccine had influential backers. It was the highly touted project of a company called Barkat, part of a sprawling corporate empire close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Less than a week later, Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced that the vaccine had received emergency approval. At the time, Barkat had not even begun its Phase 3 clinical trial, meant to confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness and identify possible side-effects, Iranian researchers later reported in a medical journal. That trial started two days later, the researchers said. The results are still not public.

In approving Barkat’s vaccine, the government demonstrated how a largely unaccountable Iranian state often pursues policies that benefit those connected to the regime, speciously identifying the Iranian elite’s interests with those of the public. But rarely had the stakes been higher. At the time, Iran was suffering the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak and was on the brink of its deadliest wave yet.

Government officials cut corners to expedite a yet-unproven vaccine that would be highly profitable for Khamenei’s favoured conglomerate, financial documents show, even as the supreme leader barred the import of some Western-made vaccines, and as imports of other vaccines encountered delays. Yet another vaccine being partly developed in Iran had also been moving toward regulatory approval, but the Barkat vaccine leapfrogged to the front of the line, according to government and company documents.

Over the following year, Barkat would fall short in delivering the millions of vaccine doses it had promised. Though a top executive had told Khamenei in a letter that more than 50 million doses would be available by last September, only half that amount had been produced by early this year, according to a company disclosure. While there is no evidence that the Barkat vaccine was harmful, its impact on the pandemic has been minimal. Most Iranians who have been vaccinated ultimately received Chinese vaccines.

Despite the lacklustre performance, Barkat received about $100 million from the government over a 12-month period, and the company’s net profits in the most recent year on the Iranian calendar nearly doubled compared with the previous year when adjusted for inflation, according to company disclosures. The Barkat subsidiary that manufactured the vaccine saw its net annual profits explode to more than 20 times the level of the previous year.

This article is based on two dozen interviews and hundreds of pages of financial and regulatory documents, which revealed new details about payments that Barkat made to government officials who served on its board and to other businesses close to the regime.

Barkat financial statements and disclosures reviewed by The Washington Post reveal that the company within days of the vaccine’s approval compensated its board of directors, including two members who also served as government officials overseeing Iran’s coronavirus response and helping shape public policies to address the pandemic. Experts in Iranian corporate governance said company directors typically stand to gain — through larger bonuses and an appreciation in the value of any shares they hold — when firms increase their profits. But it is not clear from Barkat documents whether this practice was followed by the firm in this instance.

As part of the vaccine project, Barkat also gave business to two firms that have worked closely with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the powerful military force close to Khamenei, The Post’s review of documents revealed.

Najafi, an epidemiologist and medical doctor, had pointedly warned against letting improper financial influences corrupt the vaccine review process. In his letter to the health minister, Najafi had stressed the importance of ensuring that the vaccine approval was free of parochial interests, explicitly warning that decision-makers should have no “economic/financial conflicts of interest.”

Barkat executives and current and former Health Ministry officials declined or did not respond to interview requests and questions sent via email and social media.

But in public statements, company executives and government officials have defended the vaccine, saying that Barkat contributed to Iran’s fight against the coronavirus in the face of harsh economic sanctions and that the vaccine went through a rigorous development process. “The reality is that people’s health is our first priority,” Barkat board member Hamidreza Jamshidi told reporters last August.