Pakistan registers another 54 coronavirus infections in 24 hours

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The number of daily coronavirus tests has fallen below 10,000 probably for the first time ever since the latest wave of Covid-19 hit the country.

Pakistan, however, has registered another 54 coronavirus infections and no death during the last 24 hours (Monday), showed the statistics released by the National Institute of Health Pakistan on Tuesday morning.

As per the latest NIH data, the death toll remained unchanged at 30,381, whereas the number of total infections now stood at 1,531,242 after adding the fresh 54 cases.

During the last 24 hours (Monday), 9,371 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.58 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 48.

During the last 24 hours (Monday), another 83 people recovered from the Covid-19 and the number of total recoveries now stood at 1,498,017. As of Tuesday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 2,844.

As many as 577,864 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 507,469 in Punjab, 219,738 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 135,593 in Islamabad, 35,506 in Balochistan, 43,352 in Azad Kashmir and 11,752 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As many as 13,565 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,107 in Sindh, 6,324 in KP, 1,024 in Islamabad, 792 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.

 Canada PM Trudeau says contracted Covid a second time

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for Covid-19 for a second time in less than five months, he said Monday, adding that he feels fine but is isolating.

“I’ve tested positive for Covid-19. I’ll be following public health guidelines and isolating,” the Canadian leader said on Twitter, adding: “I feel okay.”

Trudeau, who has received three doses of the Covid vaccine, also tested positive for the virus at the end of January.

He used this latest bout — coming on the heels of a trip to the United States for the Summit of the Americas that brought some two dozen regional leaders together — as an opportunity to promote Covid vaccines, saying his lack of severe symptoms was “because I got my shots.”

“If you haven’t, get vaccinated” or “get boosted,” he urged. “Let’s protect our healthcare system, each other, and ourselves.”

In January, Trudeau had missed the return of parliament after a Christmas holiday break because he’d tested positive for Covid along with two of his children.

Days earlier, a mass protest led by truckers opposed to vaccine mandates had descended on Ottawa.

Their occupation of the capital would continue for weeks before the government declared an emergency and police cleared their camp outside parliament.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Trudeau also had to isolate for 14 days after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for the coronavirus on her return from a trip to London.

Covid transmission is decreasing in most parts of Canada, according to public health officials.

WTO seeks shot in the arm with Covid jab IP idea

The WTO’s search for a role in fighting the pandemic sharpened up on Monday as ministers seek a compromise to lift intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines.

The World Trade Organization’s first ministerial meeting since December 2017 is wrestling with the wording of a text that would temporarily waive patents on coronavirus jabs.

It is the main pandemic-combating idea being negotiated at MC12, the global trade body’s 12th ministerial conference, being held from Sunday to Wednesday at its headquarters in Geneva.

But serious objections remain from some of the countries that host major pharmaceutical companies, like Britain and Switzerland — a problem at the WTO, where decisions are taken by consensus rather than by majority.

The world’s big pharma firms are dead set against the idea, insisting that stripping patents will cripple investment and innovation.

They also say the plan has gone past its sell-by date as the world now has a surplus of vaccine doses rather than a shortage.

After Sunday’s opening ceremony and countries setting out their positions, ministers from the 164 WTO members went into rooms at the organisation’s grand, 1920s-era HQ on Lake Geneva to start talking it out face to face.

“There is continued cautious optimism about getting results at this ministerial conference,” WTO spokesman Daniel Pruzin told reporters at the close of Monday’s talks on a range of subjects.

An agreed text on the waiver is “getting closer but it needs a little bit more work” he said, describing the talks as still “problematic”.

– Birthday present? –

This week’s conference is a crunch moment for WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has staked her leadership on breathing new life into the crippled organisation, where progress has been stumbling for years.

The Nigerian former finance and foreign minister took over in March 2021 on a mission to make the WTO relevant again.

But on her 68th birthday Monday, there was no immediate sign of a breakthrough on vaccine patents.

“Pretending that a sweeping IP waiver would solve the problem does not correspond to reality. IP is not part of the problem but part of the solution,” Swiss ambassador Markus Schlagenhof told reporters.

British trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the challenge was to reach a “workable decision” on the waiver “which supports business and governments”.

Public interest groups say the draft text falls far short of what is needed, by time-limiting and complicating the vaccine patents waiver — and by leaving out Covid treatments and diagnostics.

Campaigners staged a protest in the WTO’s central atrium, chanting slogans and unfurling banners reading: “No monopolies on Covid-19 medical tools” and “End vaccine apartheid”.

“Folks have been campaigning on this for two years and it’s been a complete wall by a few countries,” demonstration organiser Deborah James told AFP.

“It’s an indictment of the WTO system: it’s completely broken, it can’t respond to a pandemic, it has no ability to put anything other than maximising profits for corporations ahead of anything else.”

– Agreement getting closer –

In October 2020, India and South Africa began pushing for the WTO to lift IP rights on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to help ensure more equitable access in poorer nations.

After multiple rounds of talks, the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa hammered out a compromise.

The text would allow most developing countries, although not China, to produce Covid vaccines without authorisation from patent holders.

Pruzin said the talks still needed to come up with a formulation on which countries would be eligible for the waiver.

Under discussion is whether countries that produce more than 10 percent of global vaccines would be ineligible to use the waiver, or whether countries would self-declare that the waiver should not apply to them.

Besides production, a second text being negotiated seeks to tackle supply constraints faced by certain countries in getting hold of Covid-fighting tools.

Pruzin said members were coming close to agreeing a text.

While many ministers said the draft on pandemic preparedness and response was “not ideal, nonetheless, broad convergence seems to be emerging for its adoption”, he told reporters.

Beyond the pandemic, the WTO faces pressure to eke out long-sought trade deals on a range of issues and show unity amid an impending global hunger crisis.