COVID19 in Pakistan: Test Positivity Rate and Deaths Declining

Percentage of people in Pakistan testing positive for coronavirus is going down along with declining deaths, according to data from multiple independent sources. The effective transmission rate Rt continues to be less than one, indicating that each infected person is infecting fewer than one person, according to data from London's Imperial College. However, this is no time to relax. Pakistanis need to continue to take all precautions, including wearing face masks, to ensure that COVID19 fades out in the country.

COVID19 Effective Reproductive Rate. Source: Imperial College, Lond...

Pakistan's coronavirus transmission rate of less than 1.0 is among the lowest in its region. Neighboring India's Rt is 1.2, Iran's 1.12 and Bangladesh 1.05 are all significantly higher than Pakistan's 0.74.

Positive Test Rate Declines to 12.7% From Peak of 22.4% on June 4, 2020

Seven-day rolling average of people testing positive for COVID19 is at 12.7% now, down from 22.4% on June 4, 2020. Biweekly deaths have declined 23.57%.

Pakistan COVID19 BiWeekly Deaths Decline 23.7%

London's Imperial College estimates that COVID19 pandemic in Pakistan is "on course to fade out", a testimony to Prime Minister Imran Khan's government's effective handling of the the ongoing global health crisis. 

COVID19 World Map Shows Pakistan Stable. Source: Imperial College

At just 0.74, the effective coronavirus reproduction rate (Rt) in Pakistan is among the lowest in the world. An Rt of less than 1 indicates each infected person is infecting fewer than one person.  Only Italy (0.63), Netherlands (0.62), Canada (0.50) and Spain (0.02) have lower reproduction rates than Pakistan's. However, this is no time to relax. Pakistanis need to continue to take all precautions, including wearing face masks, to ensure that COVID19 fades out in the country.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2020 at 10:54am

ICRA Sees #India's Real #GDP Shrink By Almost Double Digits In FY21. Rating agency now expects FY21 GDP to contract by 9.5%, a sharp downward revision from earlier forecast of 5% decline. Why: Rising #Covid19 and local lockdowns. #Modi https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/icra-sees-india-real-gdp-co... Via @Bloombergquint

ICRA Ltd. has sharply cut its forecast for the Indian economy in FY21, citing localised lockdowns and rising Covid-19 cases. Its forecast is now the most pessimistic among major institutional forecasters.

The rating agency now expects FY21 real GDP to contract by 9.5%, a sharp downward revision of its earlier forecast of a 5% contraction. The climbing Covid-19 infections have resulted in a spate of localised lockdowns in some states and cities, arresting the nascent recovery that had set in during May-June 2020, it said in a statement on Thursday.

“The Indian economy had started to recover from the troughs experienced in April 2020, when the lockdown was at its severest, and many sectors seemed to be adjusting to a new normal. However, the unabated rise in Covid-19 infections in the unlock phase and re-imposition of localised lockdowns in several states, appear to have interrupted this recovery,” said Aditi Nayar, principal economist at ICRA.

Given the severity of the pandemic and the duration of the safety measures that need to be employed, we now expect a deeper pace of GDP contraction in Q2 FY21 relative to our earlier forecast, ICRA said. The agency said the economic impact would also be more uneven, as different regions move in and out of lockdowns and persisting labour supply mismatches affect supply chains and consumption patterns.

India recorded nearly 32,000 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday with the total number of cases rising to 9.6 lakh.

As a result of the spreading infections, economists, who were earlier anticipating the economic recovery to begin in the second quarter and strengthen in the third quarter, are now revisiting that assumption.

The timeline for a firmer recovery out of the contractionary phase is now being pushed ahead to at least Q4 FY21 from Q3 FY21. This presumes that a vaccine will be widely available by then, which now appears necessary for discretionary consumption to recover in certain sectors such as travel, hospitality and recreation.
Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist, ICRA
Also Read: Covid-19: Shape Of India’s Economic Recovery Goes From V To W-ish

ICRA expects the Indian economy to have contracted by 25% in Q1 FY2021. It now expects a shallower recovery in subsequent quarters than estimated earlier.

GDP is estimated to contract by 12.4% in Q2 FY21 as compared to a contraction of 2.1% estimated earlier.
GDP is estimated to contract by 2.3% in Q3 FY21, compared to an earlier estimate of GDP growth at 2.1%.
GDP forecast for Q4 FY21 too has been revised to a growth rate of 1.3% from 5% as per ICRA’s previous estimates.
The agency, however, does expect the rural economy to remain a bright spot. High frequency indicators in the rural economy such as kharif acreage and tractor sales continue to strengthen. “ICRA, thus, continues to expect agricultural gross value added to rise by 3.5-4.0% in FY21, supporting rural sentiment,” it said.

Despite the revised GDP forecasts, ICRA said it doesn’t see significant fiscal support due to the revenue pressures being faced by various levels of government.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2020 at 5:13pm

#Lockdowns being reimposed in parts of #India. 30,000 new #COVID cases & 582 more deaths, bringing totals to over 936,000 cases and over 24,000 fatalities. The actual numbers are likely far higher due to limited testing. #Modi #BJP #economy #Hindutva https://ti.me/2ZvBFrL

In Bangalore, a key technology hub in southern India where offices for major tech companies like Amazon and Apple are located, the government ordered a weeklong lockdown that began Tuesday evening.

The initial boost that India’s economy received in June after the nationwide lockdown was relaxed is being halted by these localized lockdowns in high-risk areas, experts say. Economic indicators like labor participation rates and electricity consumption are down this month compared to June, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, an independent think-tank.

India’s minister for small and medium businesses, Nitin Gadkari, said last week that experts were predicting a loss of $133.3 billion in the next year.
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As India’s coronavirus caseload approaches 1 million, lockdowns are being reimposed in parts of the country as governments try to shield the health system from being overwhelmed.

India on Wednesday reported nearly 30,000 new virus cases and 582 more deaths, raising its totals to more than 936,000 cases and over 24,000 fatalities. The actual numbers, like elsewhere globally, are likely far higher due to limited testing and poor surveillance, experts say.

A two-week lockdown that starts Thursday has been imposed in Bihar, an eastern state with a population of 128 million that is marred by a fragile health system. Since Saturday, Bihar has recorded over 1,000 cases each day, despite limited testing.

Nearly 2.5 million poor migrant workers who had been stranded during India’s initial lockdown of the entire country have returned to the state after they lost their jobs in large cities.

Authorities are now increasingly trying to focus their lockdowns to shield the economy from further losses, and nearly a dozen states are turning to localized clampdowns in areas where many cases have been detected. Referred to as “containment zones” by public health officials, these can be as small as a few houses on a street in New Delhi, the capital.

Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist at Christian Medical College in southern India, warned that the country’s actual death toll from the coronavirus could be much higher due to the absence of a robust mechanism to report deaths in rural areas. “We don’t have the infrastructure,” he said.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, said that with new cases accelerating, India’s strategy must focus on keeping case numbers as low as possible and saving as many lives as it could.

“The standard stuff is the standard stuff: You have got to continue testing and isolation … make sure there are few to no indoor gatherings,” he said.

Experts have pointed out that India will see multiple peaks in different parts of the country.

Jha warned that India has to ensure that it continues building on supplies and that it has enough beds for people who will need to be hospitalized in the coming days. “You can’t overprepare,” he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 20, 2020 at 7:08am

Sacrificial animals for #EidulAdha: Online buying picks up in #Pakistan amid #Covid_19 pandemic with big makeshift markets banned. Many meat brands & cattle farm owners have websites taking orders. They're reporting 5X more orders than in past. #ecommerce http://v.aa.com.tr/1916015

Traditionally, Karachiites visit the Sohrab Goth Maweshi Mandi – claimed as Asia's largest cattle market – to buy the animals of their choice to sacrifice on Eid al-Adha, one of the two main Muslim festivals which takes place between the 10th and 13th of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah.

Pakistan is expected to start celebrating Eid on on July 31, subject to the sighting of the moon.

But the conditions this year are entirely different due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has infected millions and changed the global lifestyle altogether.

"We expect a 50% fall in the number of buyers this year, mainly because of the coronavirus fallout," Zaki Abro, an organizer of the cattle market in Karachi, told Anadolu Agency.

While citizens' purchasing power has fallen due to virus restrictions, he said, sellers, on the contrary, want to make up for the losses they have incurred during the months-long lockdown, leading to a significant increase in animal prices.

Last year, nearly 500,000 animals were sold for 6 billion Pakistani rupees ($35.8 million) in the Sohrab Goth market alone.

"There is no shortage of animals. A higher number of cattle are available this year but the problem is the lack of ability to buy," Abro said, adding that sales are also likely to drop by half compared to last year.

Marking the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son on Allah’s command, financially-able Muslims slaughter animals such as cows, sheep and goats. The meat is then shared among family and friends, and also donated to the poor.

Online platforms and charities

Platforms providing online buying and sacrificial services have existed in Pakistan for years. However, the pandemic situation coupled with new restrictions have increased their popularity by manifold this year.

Unlike in the past, authorities have banned the setting up of small makeshift cattle markets within cities, and slaughter of animals in open spaces, fearing a spike in a relatively dwindling virus infection ratio, is also prohibited.

Taking advantage, scores of meat brands, and cattle farm owners have launched websites offering citizens "manageable," and "convenient" ways of sacrificing cattle. So much so, several companies are providing online sacrifice services to overseas Pakistanis, mainly in the US and Europe, as well.

"We have booked orders five times higher than in 2019," Arshad Hussain, an official of a popular countrywide online sacrificial service provider, told Anadolu Agency.

"A majority of them will simply collect the meat on the first, second, and third day of Eid as per their booking. Few have bought animals that we will deliver on their doorstep before Eid," he said.

Most of the orders, he added, had been received from big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.

With the virus being highly contagious, people have been advised to avoid large crowds.

Even though many are visiting the markets to buy animals after inspecting them physically, things have changed.

Aamir Hussain, a Karachi-based system developer, would usually bring goats home a week before Eid as his children enjoy taking care of them. But not this time.

"I have booked qurbani [sacrifice] through an online website this year as I am not comfortable with the idea of exposing myself by visiting the cattle market, and slaughtering the cattle outside my house," he told Anadolu Agency. "I am not going to do that this time. It will be too risky for myself, and my family."

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 23, 2020 at 8:35pm

#Covid19 Attacks #India’s Vast #Rural Heartland. #Coronavirus cases mount after #migrant workers returned home to poor areas with weak #healthcare. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva - WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-attacks-indias-vast-rural-hea...


Across much of rural India, home to 900 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people, the story is similar. Nationwide, infections have surged, passing 1.2 million confirmed cases, ranking India behind the U.S. and Brazil in the global pandemic. On a daily basis, India announced a record 45,720 new infections Thursday, with 1,128 deaths, putting it behind the U.S. for daily increase in infections.

India’s urban centers—particularly Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai— have been hit the hardest so far, but poorer rural states have been leading recent new-case growth.

West Bengal, where Dokangora is, for example, has seen new cases rise more than two times the national average during the past two weeks. It is reporting more than 2,000 new cases a day now, up from fewer than 500 a day last month.

Official figures likely greatly undercount the number infected, experts say, because so few tests are happening, particularly in rural areas.

The main vector, health experts say, has been migrant workers bringing the virus home with them to swaths of the country that have very little health-care infrastructure.

“The movement from urban to rural India has set the stage for the rural wave,” said T. Jacob John, a retired professor of virology at the Christian Medical College in the southern city of Vellore.

Everyone, it seems, is scared. Mohammad Akhibul said he hasn’t dared to step out of his tiny house for two weeks. His family’s eight members have been sharing one bar of soap to wash their hands. Local authorities provided two bars, but the family has decided to save one for later.

Mr. Akhibul said he and his relatives can’t work and are surviving on government food rations that neighbors drop at their door.

Mr. Akhibul, 31 years old, lost his job as a machine operator at a factory in New Delhi when Covid-19 hit. He returned to the village with his wife and two children. Despite being quarantined for 14 days at a rural center, his family is being shunned, he said.

“We are not allowed to get water from the village pump,” he said. “They don’t allow their kids to play with our children.” The family gets water once a day from the pond where farm animals drink, he said.

The village (Dokangora, West Bengal) is still in the early phases of the outbreak, but officials from the rural district of Purba Medinipur, where the village is located, say they are already overwhelmed. The district has had to manage the return of more than 70,000 people from other states, often from India’s current coronavirus epicenters of Mumbai and New Delhi.

The district has set up more than 70 centers for screening and quarantining returnees who have to be taken care of for two weeks before they are allowed to go back to their villages.

District officials said they had to quell protests at the schools being used as quarantine centers as parents were worried the virus would spread to the schools and infect their children.

The local coronavirus hotline has been ringing constantly with questions from residents who have all types of symptoms and concerns, not knowing what to do. Villagers often call the hotline to report on their neighbors who have come home from the big cities.

“They panic if someone coming from outside has a mild cough or is sneezing,” said Tulika Banerjee, a local government officer who helps oversee Dokangora village. “They call our help line to say they have coronavirus.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 24, 2020 at 4:18pm

A nightly #talkshow circus plays out on TV channels in #Pakistan and the favorite target is #ImranKhan. Personal opinions trump unbiased analyses on TV with varying degrees of harshness & hostility. Hearsay shoves verification aside. #PTI #rumor #innuendo https://gn24.ae/a3619a804da9000

HIGHLIGHTS
Every night, there is the circus with some familiar faces. The formations of panels differ. A host, three panellists, and one topic worded in varying degrees of harshness and hostility.
A host, one PTI politician acting as the spokesperson of the party, and two guests, either both from the rival Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or one politician and an analyst. A host and three “analysts”, mostly active or retired journalists.

And just as I settle down in my comfy old couch to take a much-needed hiatus from political commentary on Twitter, and in my columns, something jolts me un-dead in my typing tracks. While I look for Mufti Menk’s beautiful advice to retweet, lyrics to subtweet, movies to tweet-review, and gorgeous people and dogs to gush over, my weird luck pushes me to something I avoid like coronavirus-ridden droplets. I go on a binge watching of Pakistani prime time talk shows. My mind is in a tizzy now. And that, my darlings, is not a good thing in the time of coronavirus.

Retracing my TV viewing of the last two decades – as going further back is a waste of my carefully chosen words and the reader’s attention –here is my honest confession: I was and am a news and panel discussions and interviews junkie. Having been unusually interested in politics and movies all my life, print and electronic media was my curious and constant peep into the world of people I wished to be, some I idolised, many I couldn’t relate to, and some I didn’t like. Post the year 2000, Pakistan’s private TV channels opened a world of desi information and debate that I mostly liked, and occasionally criticised. I found it all utterly fascinating.

The power of nascent media spelled a new era of freedom in a country that had seen draconian measures of military dictators and civilian behemoths to control the “suitability” of news and promulgation of what and how much the public needed to know. Private media houses boomed as an interesting mix of the money-making corporate and the responsible journalist. Freedom of expression was the new mantra, guarded with an earnestness that appeared sincere and unapologetic. Like all good things, that earnestness had an expiration date.

The 24/7 news unfolded a new TV dynamic, and without much ado, strengthened the inevitability of the electronic media journalist assuming the shape of the new power wielder. Politics and media tiptoed into a union that was based on mutual need. The liaison engendered a new entity: the kingmaker.
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Imran Khan’s government has had many missteps and feeble policies. That is in addition to the wreck of a country Khan inherited. What his government is doing simultaneously: undo the damage done by the previous governments, implement new policies, initiate new projects, and make amends for its own weak implementation of some of its promises. Talk show hosts of Pakistan, in their recent avatars of being the guardians of public’s wellbeing, refuse to show the full picture. They are gleeful about their power to construct new narratives. They are unabashed about their audacity to contort the reality.

Giving the impression of having numerous subjects but in reality only one theme, on the nightly theatrics of talk shows, what is invisible to the perpetrators of cacophony and chaos is that it is not Prime Minister Imran Khan who is being harmed.

The first and the final victim is one: Pakistan.

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