Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

A rush of people on Thursday outside an electronics market in Karachi, after Pakistan started easing the lockdown restrictions. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

  • The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s coronavirus infections have surpassed neighboring China — once the region’s hotbed — as the national tally on Thursday reached 86,913, with doctors warning the government of a health crisis in the coming days if appropriate measures are not taken to flatten the curve.

China, where the virus emerged last year, has recorded 84,160 cases and imposed strict lockdowns to curb the disease. But in Pakistan, with 1,770 reported deaths and the infection count nearing 87,000, has been easing lockdowns countrywide since mid-May.

“People should not get scared by the surge in cases. It’s a pandemic and we need to deal with it wisely and courageously,” Sajid Hussain Shah, spokesperson at the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Thursday.

A total of 4,688 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 82 deaths, the highest single-day rise ever, landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of the coronavirus cases,.

The country has also enhanced its daily testing capacity to over 20,000 and has conducted 615,511 tests.

The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May, contrary to the recommendation of doctors and experts who advocated their extension to stem the spread of the virus.

Previously, the government had decided to shut down public places, the transport sector and markets on March 23. Now, the authorities are blaming the people for not adhering to social distancing regulations and other precautions, pointing out that negligence has led to the growing outbreak.

“We have witnessed a spike in the cases after people violated the government’s prescribed precautionary measures,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News.

The country’s federal capital has reported 3,544 positive coronavirus cases with 38 deaths and 5,680 tests so far.

“We are diligently working on contact tracing and surveillance in the high-risk population areas to contain the virus,” Zia said. “We are also ensuring a smart lockdown in the areas where COVID-19 cases are reported to prevent its further spread.”

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has blamed the government for the surge in the cases due to its “noncoherent and confusing policy” to deal with the disease.

“The government has failed to adopt a uniform policy on dealing with the virus from day one, so the result is quite obvious,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, PMA secretary general, told Arab News.

He warned that the country’s health facilities had reached the brink of collapse with the sharp growth in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. “If the rising trend of the coronavirus cases is not contained or reversed, the health facilities may crumble in the coming days,” he said.

The PMA is also concerned by the increasing number of infections of doctors and paramedics. At least 30 health care practitioners — including 26 doctors and four nurses — have died due to the virus, while more than 2,100 have been infected so far, according to the PMA.

“Many private and public hospitals have already started refusing to admit coronavirus patients with ventilators and beds getting short in the medical facilities,” Sajjad said, urging the government to quell propaganda on social media that “coronavirus does not exist in Pakistan.”

There are 746 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities and 4,918 patients have been admitted across the country.

“We have been further extending our health facilities to deal with the pressure,” the Shah of the health ministry said. “Our hospitals are fully equipped and coping with the need.”


US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 05 August 2020

US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

  • The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J
  • This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country

WASHINGTON: The United States government will pay Johnson & Johnson over $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine, its latest such arrangement as the race to tame the pandemic intensifies, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.
It said it would deliver the vaccine to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on a not-for-profit basis to be used after approval or emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
J&J has already received $1 billion in funding from the US government — BARDA agreed in March to provide that money for the company to build manufacturing capacity for more than 1 billion doses of the experimental vaccine.
The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J. Including the first $1 billion deal with the USgovernment, the price would be slightly higher than the $19.50 per dose that the United States is paying for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and German biotech BioNTech SE.
The US government may also purchase an additional 200 million doses under a subsequent agreement. J&J did not disclose that deal’s value.
J&J plans to study a one- or two-dose regimen of the vaccine in parallel later this year. A single-shot regimen could allow more people to be vaccinated with the same number of doses and would sidestep issues around getting people to come back for their second dose.
This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country. Talks are underway with the European Union, but no deal has yet been reached.
J&J’s investigational vaccine is currently being tested on healthy volunteers in the United States and Belgium in an early-stage study.
There are currently no approved vaccines for COVID-19. More than 20 are in clinical trials.