As China Battles Coronavirus; Ally Pakistan Declares Emergency Over Locust Swarms

The death toll in China from the deadly coronavirus outbreak rose to at least 425 on Monday, as China acknowledged “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the outbreak.

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The National Health Commission said there were 64 new fatalities on Monday – the biggest daily increase since the virus was first identified in Wuhan. The city, and the surrounding province of Hubei, which have been adequately sealed off from the rest of the nation for more than a week. There are now 20,438 people confirmed to have the infection.

What is Coronavirus?

According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. SARS, for instance, was believed to have been transmitted from civet cats to humans while MERS travelled from a type of camel to humans.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a solar corona.

A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. Little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.

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Symptoms of Coronavirus?

According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and even death.

The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 and 14 days. Some experts say it may not be as deadly as other types of coronavirus such as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide, more than 300 in China alone – during a 2002-2003 outbreak that also originated in China.

MERS, which did not spread as widely, was more deadly, killing one-third of those it infected. In China, however, the infection is more widespread than SARS in terms of case numbers.

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say likely came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally. The WHO also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak. On February 2, officials in Hubei said the virus had a 96 per cent concordance with an already-known bat-borne coronavirus. Chinese scientists previously mentioned snakes as a possible source.

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Locust Swarms – Pakistan

Pakistani authorities have declared a national emergency to battle the swarms of desert locusts which are eating crops on a large scale and raising fears of food insecurity.

 “We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare a national emergency to deal with the threat,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday.

The decision and a national action plan to deal with the locust threat were approved by PM Imran Khan after a detailed briefing on Friday.

Borkenkäfer (Imago/S. Schellhorn)

“The locust attack is unprecedented and alarming,” minister for national food security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar told the National Assembly on Friday. He said authorities were struggling to deal with the infestation of the desert locusts due to limited resources.

The crop-eating grasshopper entered Pakistan in June from Iran and has already affected large areas across south-western districts and ravaged cotton, wheat, maize and other crops. The locust has travelled all the way from the southern province of Sindh to the northern-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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Favourable weather conditions and a delayed response by the authorities have helped the locusts breed and launch attacks from the desert on crop areas and nearby towns.