NCOC winds up corona operations as Pakistan reports 244 cases, 6 deaths

Asad Umar says all Covid indicators are at all-time low, baton now passed to Health Ministry: WHO warns of virulent Covid variant risk: South Africa's death toll tops 100,000

By: News Desk
Published: 09:47 AM, 31 Mar, 2022
Pakistan coronavirus
Caption: File photo shows Asad Umar chairing an NCOC meeting in Islamabad.
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After the incessant slide in all the coronavirus indicators throughout Pakistan, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced to wind up its operations and hand over the control of future operations to the Ministry of Health.

The NCOC was the nerve centre to synergise and articulate unified national effort against Covid-19 pandemic and to implement the decisions of the National Coordination Committee on coronavirus.

The Centre was one-window operation to collate, analyse and process information based on digital input and human intelligence across Pakistan through all pronvinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and ICT.

Acknowledging its achievements, Federal Planning Minister and NCOC head Asad Umar said today (Thursday) was the last day of NCOC operations.

In a tweet, the minister said “With Covid indicators at all-time lows, and the high level of vaccination, the baton was now being passed on to the health ministry.”

In another tweet, Asad Umar said “With Allah's mercy and support of the entire nation, we have been able to overcome this unprecedented challenge. Makes me immensely proud as a Pakistani that Pakistan received praise for its Covid response as one of the most successful in the world from global agencies and personalities.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan also congratulated the NCOC team and its leadership for a professional, nationally-coordianted response to the pandemic.

As far as the daily indicators were concerned, Pakistan has registered 244 more coronavirus cases and six deaths during the last 24 hours (Wednesday), showed the figures released by the NCOC on Thursday morning.

As per the latest NCOC data, with the addition of six more deaths the toll has gone up to 30,355, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,524,793 after adding the fresh 244 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 29,625 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.82 percent. The number of patients in critical care was 439.

During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), as many as 126 patients have recovered from the virus whereas the total recoveries stood at 1,485,735. As of Thursday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 8,703.

As many as 575,257 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 505,003 in Punjab, 219,026 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 135,072 in Islamabad, 35,472 in Balochistan, 43,261 in Azad Kashmir and 11,702 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 13,556 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,096 in Sindh, 6,319 in KP, 1,023 in Islamabad, 792 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.

WHO warns of virulent Covid variant risk

The World Health Organization on Wednesday laid out three possible paths that the Covid-19 pandemic might follow in 2022 -- with a new, more virulent variant the worst-case scenario.

The WHO said the most likely way forward was that the severity of disease caused by the virus would wane over time, due to greater public immunity.

But the UN health agency also said a more dangerous variant of concern than Omicron could be lurking round the corner.

The WHO released its updated Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan, with the organisation's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hoping it will be the last.

It lays out three possible scenarios for how the third year of the pandemic will pan out.

"Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection," Tedros told a press conference.

He said periodic spikes in cases and deaths might occur as immunity wanes, which may require occasional booster vaccinations for vulnerable people.

"In the best-case scenario, we may see less severe variants emerge, and boosters or new formulations of vaccines won't be necessary," he said.

"In the worst-case scenario, a more virulent and highly transmissible variant emerges. Against this new threat, people's protection against severe disease and death, either from prior vaccination or infection, will wane rapidly."

Tedros said that scenario would require significantly altering the currently-available vaccines, and then making sure they get delivered to the people most vulnerable to severe disease.

A worker, wearing a protective gear, walks next to barriers that separate from the street a neighbourhood in lockdown as a measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus in Jing'an district, in Shanghai, China.–AFP

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, said the virus still has "a lot of energy left", going into the third year of the pandemic.

Last week, more than 10 million new cases and 45,000 deaths were reported to the WHO, which said the number of new infections would be far higher as testing rates have dropped.

At the end of last week, more than 479 million confirmed cases had been registered throughout the pandemic, and more than six million deaths, although WHO acknowledges that the true toll could be several times higher.

South Africa's Covid death toll tops 100,000

South Africa has registered a total of more than 100,000 Covid deaths, according to official figures released Wednesday, but actual fatalities are believed to be much higher.

Data released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases showed a total of 100,020 fatalities had occurred since the start of the pandemic two years ago.

The institute reported 44 deaths on Wednesday, but only six were from the past two days, while the rest were discovered during an ongoing government audit.

Covid-19 fatalities are estimated to be higher than officially reported, with researchers saying they could be triple the reported figures.

Data compiled by the South African Medical Research Council shows that there have been over 300,000 excess deaths from natural causes since the pandemic hit.

"Since 3 May 2020, there has been a cumulative total of 303,400 excess deaths from natural causes of persons all ages," the council said in a report on Tuesday.

The excess deaths data is derived from an estimate of fatalities that might be expected to have occurred without a pandemic, according to the methodology employed by the government-funded but independent research group.

"Although more data are needed on the underlying causes of (natural) death, (the) observation is strongly supportive that a significant proportion of the current excess mortality being observed in South Africa is likely to be attributable to Covid-19," it said in a report on its website.

According to the council, 85,000 of the excess deaths occurred during the first year of the pandemic, 203,200 occurred last year, while more than 15,000 have occurred so far this year.

South Africa is the continent's hardest hit country, counting more than 3.7 million coronavirus cases or more than 30 percent of Africa's  over 11.3 million cases.

But it is due to destroy some 92,000 Pfizer vaccines what are expiring on Thursday, health ministry said in a statement.

It will be the first time South Africa -- where 30 percent of the population is fully inoculated -- discards Covid vaccines, as uptake "wanes", government said. 

Another nearly 900,000 doses are due to expire in May while 5.8 million are facing expiry in June, with another 4.8 million reaching their use-by date in July. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week rolled back most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions as new infections fell and fewer deaths were reported.

With inputs from AFP.