Pakistan, Poland reopen as virus cases dip

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Restrictions are being eased in Pakistan and Poland as coronavirus case numbers dip while the head of the global airline body IATA has argued travel curbs are no longer needed.

Educational institutions in Pakistan will reopen from next week, the government announced on Wednesday, as the third wave of the pandemic slowed down and a vaccination drive picked up.

Students would return to schools, colleges and universities from Monday, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said.

The government had already ordered the partial reopening of colleges and universities last week but has now decided to reopen all the institutions, he said.

The decision was announced as Pakistan reported fewer than 3000 new coronavirus infections for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

The ratio of coronavirus tests returning positive has dropped below 4 per cent this week from more than 10 per cent during most of April-May period.

More than 900,000 people have been infected in Pakistan with nearly 21,000 deaths so far, according to the official statistics.

Meanwhile, Poland's plummeting numbers of COVID-19 infections and related deaths have allowed the government to ease more restrictions and allow for conferences and exhibitions, indoor playgrounds and higher attendance at family events like weddings.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Wednesday latest figures show that the pandemic is "easing off," allowing for the new rules to take effect on Sunday for a two-week trial period.

Conferences, fairs and trade exhibitions can be organised, and indoor playgrounds can open, provided there are no more than one person per 15 square metres.

Poland's average daily number of infections has gone under 1000 and deaths are under 100 compared to almost 30,000 new daily infections and more than 700 deaths in April.

About 7.3 million Poles are fully vaccinated and another 13 million have received the first jab.

Global airline body IATA stepped up its pressure on governments to ease travel restrictions on Wednesday, pointing to UK testing data that showed low incidence of COVID-19 in arriving passengers.

"These data tell us we can do better," IATA Director General Willie Walsh said, citing a 2.2 per cent positive rate among 365,895 tests carried out in February-May, according to the UK's National Health Service.

"Universal restrictions on people are no longer needed," Walsh added.

Excluding passengers arriving from countries on the UK's higher-risk red list, the positive rate fell to 1.46 per cent, according to the data cited by the International Air Transport Association.

with AP, DPA

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