ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has registered another 353 coronavirus infections and a fatality 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 edged up to 30,509 while the number of total infections now stood at 1,560,955 after adding the fresh 353 cases.
During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), 11,388 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 3.10 percent. The number of patients in critical care was recorded at 155.
During the last 24 hours (Wednesday), another 211 patients have recovered from the Covid-19 in Pakistan and the number of total recoveries now stood at 1,520,735. As of Thursday, the total count of active cases in the country was recorded at 9,711.
As many as 592,032 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Sindh, 517,013 in Punjab, 222,108 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 138,105 in Islamabad, 35,858 in Balochistan, 43,904 in Azad Kashmir and 11,935 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
As many as 13,590 individuals have lost their lives to the pandemic in Punjab so far, 8,197 in Sindh, 6,332 in KP, 1,028 in Islamabad, 793 in Azad Kashmir, 378 in Balochistan and 191 in Gilgit Baltistan.
EU eyes autumn approval of Pfizer jab for Covid variants
The EU’s medicines watchdog said Wednesday it aims to approve this autumn a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine adapted for two fast-spreading subvariants of the Omicron strain.
Milder but more infectious than earlier types of the Covid virus, the BA.4 and BA.5 types have helped to drive a wave of new cases of the disease in Europe and the United States.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it had launched a review on Monday of an adapted version of the Pfizer jab targeting those two types, which are more transmissible and immune evasive than earlier variants.
“EMA is expecting to receive an application for the BA.4/5 adapted vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, which will be evaluated for a potential rapid approval in the fall,” an EMA spokesman told AFP in an emailed statement.
That would come “shortly after” the expected approval of two other adapted vaccines by Pfizer and its rival Moderna, which target both the original Covid virus and the earlier BA.1 subvariant of Omicron, the spokesman said.
Both Pfizer and Moderna had lodged separate applications for approval of those vaccines on July 22, the spokesman added.
The EMA, which oversees medicines for the 27-nation European Union, has previously said the first Omicron-adapted jabs could be approved as early as September.
– ‘Nowhere near over’ –
While vaccines have helped lower hospitalisations and deaths from Covid, which first emerged in China in late 2019, the current jabs are mainly aimed at the earlier strains of the disease.
The World Health Organization warned in July that the pandemic was “nowhere near over”, due to the spread of Omicron subvariants and to the lifting of control measures.
Covid cases rose around the world in late spring and early summer, driven by the new variants, but have since started to plateau in Europe.
European nations are now starting to look ahead to the autumn and winter season, when cases are expected to peak once more.
The EU said on Tuesday it had agreed with Moderna to delay vaccine deliveries scheduled for the summer to wait for jabs that are adapted for new Omicron variants.
The WHO and the EU’s health and medicine agencies have meanwhile all recently recommended a second booster shot for older people.
The BA.4 and BA.5 variants were first discovered in South Africa and spread rapidly despite high population immunity conferred by prior waves and vaccinations.
Like other Omicron variants, they tend to have a milder disease course as they settle less in the lungs and more in the upper nasal passages, causing symptoms like fever, tiredness and loss of smell.
North Korea declares ‘victory’ over Covid, says Kim had fever
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un declared a “shining victory” over Covid-19 as his sister revealed he had fallen ill during the outbreak, which she blamed on Seoul, state media said Thursday.
Addressing a meeting of health workers and scientists, Kim announced a “victory… in the war against the malignant pandemic disease”, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The isolated country, which has maintained a rigid coronavirus blockade since the start of the pandemic, confirmed an Omicron outbreak in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”.
North Korea refers to “fever patients” rather than “Covid patients” in case reports, apparently due to a lack of testing capacity.
It has recorded nearly 4.8 million “fever” infections and just 74 deaths for an official fatality rate of 0.002 percent, according to state media. It has reported no new cases since July 29.
This handling of the pandemic “is a miracle unprecedented in the world’s public health history,” Kim said to thunderous applause, according to KCNA.
“The victory gained by our people is a historic event.”
– Kim’s ‘high fever’ –
Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the top leader himself had been ill during the outbreak, according to another KCNA report.
Kim “was suffering from high fever during the days of this quarantine war, but he could not lie down for a moment as he was thinking about the people he was responsible for”, his sister said.
This is the first time North Korea has indicated its leader — whose health is the subject of extraordinarily close scrutiny by analysts — had been infected by the coronavirus.
Yo Jong also claimed the country’s Covid-19 outbreak was caused by South Korea, warning of “retaliation”.
North Korea has previously said that “alien things” near the border with the South caused the isolated country’s Covid outbreak, a claim Seoul has rejected.
Despite a ban that took effect in 2021, South Korean activists have for years flown balloons containing propaganda leaflets and US dollars over the border, which Pyongyang has long protested against.
Yo Jong said such actions were a “crime against humanity” and that Pyongyang was considering “a strong retaliatory response”.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry on Thursday said North Korea was repeating a “groundless claim” and expressed regret that Pyongyang was making “rude and threatening remarks”.
– Nuclear test? –
Analysts said that the victory declaration indicated North Korea was looking to move on to other priorities “such as boosting the economy or conducting a nuclear test,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Kim Yo Jong’s bellicose rhetoric is concerning because not only will she try to blame any Covid resurgence on South Korea, she is also looking to justify North Korea’s next military provocation,” he added.
Experts, including the World Health Organization, have long questioned Pyongyang’s Covid statistics and claims to have brought the outbreak under control.
The country has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no Covid-19 treatment drugs or vaccines, experts say.
South Korea — with its advanced healthcare and highly vaccinated population — has a coronavirus fatality rate of 0.12 percent, according to official data — significantly higher than that reported in the North.