Pakistan records steep rise in coronavirus infections, fatalities

NIH data shows daily number of deaths rose to eight, positivity ratio to 3.65%: China puts Wuhan district into lockdown over four Covid cases: WHO says all theories still on table after studies point to natural Covid origin

By: News Desk
Published: 09:50 AM, 28 Jul, 2022
Pakistan records steep rise in coronavirus infections, fatalities
Caption: A familiar view of a shut Wuhan street after lockdown imposed by the Chinese authorities.
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There was a steep rise in the everyday coronavirus infections and fatalities in Pakistan as the country posted 761 new cases and eight deaths during the last 24 hours (Wednesday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Thursday morning.

As per the NIH data, the death toll in the country now moved up to 30,482 after adding the eight fatalities while the number of total infections now stood at 1,552,632 after adding the fresh 761 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 20,843 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 3.65 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 170.

The maximum positivity ratio during the last 24 hours was recorded in Gilgit which was at 19.64 percent, followed by Muzaffarabad at 13.73, Swabi at 12.50, Peshawar at 12.47, Lahore at 11.16, Karachi at 3.20, Islamabad at 3.70, Mardan at 2.43, Multan at 2.00, Hyderabad at 1.75, Sargodha at 1.32 and Quetta at 1.18 percent.

China puts Wuhan district into lockdown

The central Chinese city of Wuhan has mandated one of its districts with 1 million residents into a lockdown after four asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 were found.

Local authorities of the Jiangxia district announced a three-day “temporary restriction” starting Wednesday after the COVID cases were detected in Wuhan, which studies point to being the origin of the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

This is the first time the city has imposed a shutdown since January 2020, when the provincial capital held a 76-day lockdown after the virus was first found.

Large gatherings, dining-ins, most public transportation and some entertainment venues will be banned.

When President Xi Jinping visited the city last month, he declared that the country would sacrifice some of its economic development to remain COVID zero.

Lockdowns and stringent restrictions have remained in place in China, which has continually maintained its zero-COVID strategy. In February, Hong Kong mandated all of its 7.5 million residents to be triple tested for the virus, and in March, 26 million Shanghai residents were put in a two-stage lockdown amid a surge.

Out of a population of 1.5 billion, China reported just 553 new infections on Tuesday, with the majority coming from the less developed regions of Gansu and Guangxi.

WHO says all theories still on table after studies point to natural Covid origin

The World Health Organization on Wednesday welcomed new studies concluding that Covid-19 first emerged at an animal market in China's Wuhan, but insisted it was too early to rule out other theories.

"All hypotheses remain on the table," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters from the UN health agency's Geneva headquarters.

Solving the mystery of where the SARS CoV-2 virus came from and how it began spreading among humans is viewed as vital to averting future pandemics. 

The two main theories that have been hotly debated since Covid first surfaced in China in late 2019 have centred on the virus naturally spilling over from bats to an intermediary animal and into humans or escaping due to a lab accident.

Two peer-reviewed studies published in Science Tuesday claimed to have tipped the balance in the debate about the virus's origins, concluding it must have been introduced naturally through the wildlife trade at the Wuhan market.

The first paper analysed the geographic pattern of Covid cases in the outbreak's first month, December 2019, showing the first cases were tightly clustered around Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. 

The second examined genomic data from the earliest cases to study the virus' early evolution, concluding it was unlikely the coronavirus circulated widely in humans prior to November 2019.

Ryan welcomed the studies.

"This is a scientific detective story that goes on. Each new piece of information adds to the overall assessment," he said, stressing though that "all hypotheses remain on the table until you can prove that one hypothesis is the explanatory hypothesis."

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, welcomed the studies, as well as another one published this week looking at environmental samples.

WHO experts, she said, had already evaluated the studies, which were previously posted as "preprints" before being vetted by scientific peer review.

"These are good analyses," she told reporters, but stressed that more studies on the ground in China and beyond were needed before any final conclusions could be drawn.

"What is really critical ... is looking further within China, further within Wuhan, and in the markets within Wuhan" with further studies to "look at where the animals who were sold at those markets came from... and looking at the people who worked at those source farms", she said.

"So for us this does provide more information around what was happening early days, but unfortunately, it's not enough.

"We need more studies to be done in China and elsewhere to really understand the earliest stages."

Without more studies, "there are still open questions for us," she said.

The goal, she stressed, "is not just to figure out how this pandemic began, it is to learn how we better prepare for the future."

With inputs from AFP.