The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to impose a new round of lockdowns as the number of new COVID-19 infections there has soared over the last several days. In a letter to health authorities in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest state, WHO representative Palitha Mahipala recommended officials adopt intermittent lockdowns of “two weeks on, two weeks off” and to double its testing capacity to 50,000 per day.
The Muslim-majority nation has reported a total of 113,702 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with well over 2,100 deaths, including a record 105 fatalities reported Tuesday. Mahipala said the number of confirmed infections have soared since several provinces began easing quarantine restrictions in early May. Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to impose a strict nationwide lockdown similar to other nations, arguing it will have a devastating effect on the economy, especially the poor.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department says it will resume operations at its consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected late last December.
The U.S. State Department withdrew consulate staff and their families in late January after the Chinese government put the city under lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci has described COVID-19 as his “worst nightmare,” saying the disease spread around the world with surprising speed.
The New York Times, reporting Tuesday on Fauci’s speech to biotechnology executives, says Fauci warns that the pandemic “isn’t over yet,” despite many countries in Europe and the United States starting to ease restrictions. Fauci said he was surprised at how fast COVID-19 spread after emerging from China in December. Most efficiently transmitted diseases can become a pandemic between six months to a year. Fauci said this one took a month.
Also Tuesday, another expert epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization, sought to clear up what she says are “misunderstandings” about her earlier comments on asymptomatic transfer of the disease — that is from people who have the virus but aren’t showing any symptoms.
Van Kerkhove said Monday, “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward” — a statement that contradicted the findings of other scientists who say there is lots of evidence that asymptomatic people can spread COVID-19. She backed down from her statement Tuesday, telling reporters that asymptomatic spread is a “really complex question” and much is still unknown.
“We don’t actually have that answer yet,” she said, adding that her earlier comment was based on a few studies. WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said “both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals are part of the transmission cycle,” but that it was unclear how much each contributed to disease spread.
Brazil is once again reporting coronavirus details on its official government website after the Supreme Court ordered it to restore such information for the public. Justice Alexandre de Moraes said that dropping it from the internet had made it “impossible” for medical experts to monitor the spread of the disease and establish proper prevention.
Brazil has the world’s second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States, and the third highest number of deaths after the U.S. and Britain. Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has scoffed at the severity of COVID-19, calling it a “little flu” and mocking people worried about the disease as neurotics. He has threatened to pull Brazil out of the WHO. (VOA)