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WHO warns Covid-19 pandemic ‘nowhere near over’

Sub-variants of Omicron, like BA.4 and BA.5, continue to drive waves of cases and death around the world

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WHO warns Covid-19 pandemic ‘nowhere near over’
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Geneva: Fresh surges of Covid infections show the pandemic is nowhere near over, the World Health Organization’s chief lamented Tuesday, warning that the virus is running free.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was worried that case numbers were shooting up, putting more strain on health systems and workers.

The number of Covid cases reported to the WHO increased 30 percent in the past two weeks, driven by sub-variants of the Omicron strain and the lifting of control measures.

“New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid-19 is nowhere near over. As the virus pushes at us, we must push back,” he insisted.

He told a news conference that as transmission increases, governments must also deploy tried-and-tested measures like mask-wearing and improving ventilation.

“Sub-variants of Omicron, like BA.4 and BA.5, continue to drive waves of cases, hospitalisation and death around the world,” Tedros said.

“Surveillance has reduced significantly – including testing and sequencing – making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variants on transmission, disease characteristics, and the effectiveness of counter-measures.”

Furthermore, tests, treatments and vaccines are not being deployed effectively.

“The virus is running freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity,” he said, both in terms of hospitalisation of acute cases and the expanding number of people with Long Covid.

‘Uncertain and unpredictable’

The WHO’s Covid-19 emergency committee met Friday via video-conference and determined the pandemic remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern  – the highest alarm the WHO can sound.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told the meeting recent changes in testing policies were hindering the detection of cases and the monitoring of virus evolution.

The committee stressed the need to reduce transmission as the implications of a pandemic caused by a new respiratory virus would not be fully understood, the WHO said in a statement Monday.

The group voiced concern over steep reductions in testing, resulting in reduced surveillance and genomic sequencing.

“This impedes assessments of currently circulating and emerging variants of the virus,” the WHO said, feeding the inability to interpret trends in transmission.

The committee said the trajectory of virus evolution and the characteristics of emerging variants remained “uncertain and unpredictable”.

It said the absence of measures to reduce transmission increasing the likelihood of “new, fitter variants emerging, with different degrees of virulence, transmissibility, and immune escape potential”.

Booster boost

Meanwhile the WHO’s European office recommended a second booster shot of a Covid vaccine for older people and vulnerable groups.

Covid cases have been rising sharply since the end of May around most of Europe.

The call followed the EU’s health and medicine agencies recommendation on Monday of a second booster shot for people over 60 years old.

Coronavirus cases have risen 57 percent in Moscow over the past week, the Russian capital’s health authorities said.

“We recommend that you wear a mask in public places because the new Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 spread more rapidly from person to person,” Moscow social services wrote on Telegram.

And hundreds of thousands of people were under lockdown in a small Chinese city after just one case of Covid-19 was detected, as Beijing’s strict no-tolerance virus strategy showed no sign of abating.

The steelmaking hub of Wugang in Henan province announced three days of “closed control”.

None of the city’s 320,000 people are allowed outside their homes until midday Thursday. Local authorities were to deliver basic necessities.

China is the last major economy glued to a zero-Covid policy, crushing new outbreaks with snap lockdowns, forced quarantines and onerous travel curbs despite mounting public fatigue and damage to the economy.

SOURCE: AFP

Pakistan

President urges youth to participate in monsoon plantation drive to cope with climate change

"Pakistan was the eighth country most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change"

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President urges youth to participate in monsoon plantation drive to cope with climate change

Islamabad: President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday called for concerted efforts by all segments of society to carry out extensive plantations in a bid to save the country from the horrendous effects of climate change.

In his message on the launch of the national monsoon tree plantation drive, he urged every citizen, particularly youth, to actively participate in the campaign by planting trees in residential areas, on roadsides, and near industrial zones.

President Alvi said Pakistan was the eighth country most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

He mentioned that rising mercury levels were resulting in glacier melting and urban flooding.

During the last 19 years, he said, Pakistan suffered around 173 incidents related to climate change besides the massive destruction this year as well.

The president said as per international standards, a country required 25 percent forest cover, however, pointed out that Pakistan only had 4.8 percent of the green area according to a World Bank report.

He emphasized carrying out plantation at a large scale across the country and mentioned the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami as the largest such plantation project in the country’s history.

Under the project, he said, 1.81 billion trees had been planted by June 2022. By 2023, around 3.29 billion trees will be planted.

President Alvi said 10,000 saplings were planted in the premises of the Aiwan-e-Sadr in 2021, while a Miyawaki forest was also raised at an area of 1.5 acres under the Green Presidency Initiative.

He expressed confidence that an increase in forest cover would help mitigate the effects of climate change in the country and would also control urban flooding.

Also, the extensive plantation would result in the preservation of wildlife and flora and fauna in the country, he added.

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Relief operations for flood affectees in full swing by PAF in South Punjab Region

Basic food items and commodities were distributed amongst the needy families

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Relief operations for flood affectees in full swing by PAF in South Punjab Region

Rawalpindi: Relief operations for the flood affectees are in full swing by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in South Punjab Region.

According to a press release, food and medical facilities are being provided round the clock to the affected families by the relief teams of PAF.

12155 pounds of basic food items and commodities were distributed amongst the needy families. Moreover, 939 patients were also attended by the paramedical team of Pakistan Air Force.

The recent floods have caused devastation in the low-lying areas of South Punjab Region, badly damaging the villages and infrastructure.

Despite inclement weather conditions throughout the country, especially in flood stricken areas, PAF personnel are working hard to provide humanitarian assistance to flood affectees.

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Pakistan

New aircraft being inducted into PIA to improve performance, Senate told

The house will now meet tomorrow at 10:30 am.

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New aircraft being inducted into PIA to improve performance, Senate told

Islamabad: Minister for Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique says new aircraft are being inducted into the PIA to improve its performance.

Speaking in the Senate on Thursday, he said there is no proposal under consideration to sell out the assets of the national flag carrier.

Saad Rafique said it is our effort to operationalize this year about three hundred rooms of Hotel Roosevelt. He said we want to enter into a joint venture for the complete revival of this hotel which will help bring revenue to the country.

The Minister for Railways and Aviation said one hundred and thirty four kilometers rail track of the Sibi-Harnai-Khost section has been completed. He said we have to install a bridge on this section. However, operationalization of this section is linked with the security situation.

Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan assured the house during question hour that the present government has initiated strict action against illegal housing societies.

He said those who hoodwinked the masses will not be spared and they will land in prisons.He said cases of illegal housing societies are before the NAB and FIA. He said a campaign has also been started to create awareness amongst masses about these illegal housing societies.

The Minister of State told the house that Pakistanis enjoy visa free access to forty six countries. He said efforts are afoot to further improve the image of Pakistan in the world.

Shahadat Awan further informed that the Korang Bridge project on Islamabad Expressway will be completed by the end of this year.

Minister of State for Law said the contract for the project was awarded in September 2020. However, the contractor slow down work on the project due to price escalation in construction material. He said the contract has now been assigned to Frontier Works Organization.

Responding to another question, the Minister of State for Law said beggary has been reduced to a great extent in the federal capital territory. He said two anti-beggary squads have been established to apprehend the beggars. He said the patrolling system within Islamabad has been revamped and SHOs of all the police stations have been strictly directed to utilize their mobiles as well as staff from Rescue 15 to curb this menace.

Shahadat Awan said action has also been taken against the gang leaders of beggars. Cases have been registered against them and they have also been sentenced.

The Minister of State said the government has also established shelter homes in the federal capital for the poor and needy people. He said there are also centers for rehabilitation of women and children.

Responding to points raised by the opposition leader Shahzad Wasim, Leader of House in the Senate Azam Nazeer Tarar said it was the PTI government which victimized political opponents during its tenure. He said a case was registered against Shehbaz Gill as per the law for inciting mutiny in a state institution.

Assuring there will be no custodial torture of the PTI leader, he, however said nobody can be allowed to escape investigation and that the law will take its course in the case.

The house will now meet tomorrow at 10:30 am.

 

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