Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Jang Group’s chairman passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Mir Javed Rahman, the Chairman of the Jang Group, the largest media house of Pakistan, breathed his last, after a protracted illness, at Karachi’s South City Hospital on March 31. 

He was being treated for lung cancer while he was also reported to have suffered a heart attack a few days ago. He was 72. 

The eldest son of the late Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, the founder of the Jang Group, he was the printer and publisher of a number of popular newspapers and magazines like Jang, Akhbar-e-Jahan and MAG. 

The Jang Group, which also owns Geo Television network, had abruptly closed down two of the leading evening newspapers of the country, Daily News and Awam, about a year ago. 

Mir Javed’s younger brother, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, is acclaimed as a media tycoon, who is currently under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). 

Meanwhile the death of Mir Javed Rahman has been condoled by the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, besides the key opposition leaders in the National Assembly, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Private schools seek interest free loan for surival

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association Sindh (APSMAS), Syed Tariq Shah, who is also Secretary General of the National Educational Council Pakistan (NECP), fears closure of privately-run educational institutions if parents do not pay tuition fee.

In a statement issued in Karachi on March 31, he also demanded of the federal government to provide interest free loans to private educational institutions in order to enable them to overcome the current crises by temporarily meeting their expenditures. 

He appealed to parents to pay tuition fee regularly every month so that private institutions would not suffer badly and would survive in such crisis situation. 

He didn't mince words in stating that it would be very difficult for the private educational institutes to survive in such crisis situations and not only there would be possibility of unemployment of staff but also the future of millions of students could be at risk because tuition fee is the only source of income for institutions and the revenue collected through the tuition fee is being used to pay staff’s salaries, building rent, utility bills and government taxes. 

Tariq Shah advised the private school administrations to provide a payment solution in terms of easy installments for those parents who are unable to pay tuition fees on a monthly basis due to severe economic constraints. 

While appreciating the measures taken by the government to deal with Coronavirus (COVID-19), he stated that private institutes were supporting the government in every step taken and desire them to focus solely on the eradication of the virus and treatment of its victims so that the pandemic could be controlled in Pakistan including Sindh and normal routine life would be resumed soon. 

He pointed out that the private education sector was actively supporting the government to upgrade the standard of education and literacy rate by providing quality education. 

“The private institutions are not only the source of employment for millions of people but also paying a huge amount of revenue to government as taxes, therefore if these institutions would be closed, then not only the future of students will be at risk, thousands of staff will be unemployed as well as government will not get revenue in terms of tax which would result in new educational crisis,” Tariq Shah warned.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus update: 31 new cases confirmed in Hyderabad

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh health authorities, late on March 30, confirmed new Coronavirus infections in 31 members of a tableegi jamat in Hyderabad, which took the overall tally of the infection in Sindh to 526, with six relevant deaths since February 26 when the first patient of COVID-19 was detected in the province.

According to the earlier reports, about 250 people including foreign nationals were staying in a mosque in Hyderabad, which was later declared a corona quarantine place as one of the foreign nationals tested positive for corona. 

Earlier, about 20 of the people staying in the mosque were shifted to another quarantine centre established in Latifabad. 

According to official data updated at 2245 PST, with the latest detection of positive cases, the total number of corona infected people in Hyderabad reached to 43. Karachi and Jacobabad reported 27 and one new case, respectively, on March 30. 

According to the government data, 265 of the pilgrims from Iran in Sukkur have so far been found infected with the virus. Similarly, seven pilgrims from Iran were found corona positive in Larkana. 

“Of the 294 positive cases reported from Karachi, Dadu, Hyderabad and Jacobabad, 236 acquired the infection locally, while the remaining were believed to having acquired the diseases during their foreign visits,” an official disclosed.

Earlier, during the day the Sindh health minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho confirmed the last of the six corona related deaths in Sindh, a woman of 63. 

She, in a statement, said that the deceased woman was a resident of Karachi, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 two days back. 

“The patient, who returned from Saudi Arabia about 10 days back, had a history of acute respiratory distress syndrome,” she added, saying the death brought the total number of deaths in Sindh to six. 

Pakistan has so far reported 1,171 corona positive cases. 

According to Health Minister of Punjab Dr Yasmin Rashid, her province had so far tested 14,570 people, out of which 642 (4.40 %) were found corona positive, with 9 deaths. 

She told a TV channel that her province has decided to intensify the testing activity and soon will be able to test samples from 3,000 people for corona infection every day. 

In the meantime, Sindh minister for Anti-Corruption and Industries & Commerce and Cooperative Department, Jam Ikramuallah Dharejo, has said that the Sindh government has not yet decided to impose curfew in the wake of Coronavirus crisis. 

Urging the people to stay at their homes, however, he said that if the people did not follow the lockdown policy, the government will have no other option but to make a compulsory curfew decision.

In his interaction with media persons in his office on March 30, the minister said that no case Corona virus had been reported in Ghotki district till now. 

He further said that the government was going to provide ration to the daily earners soon. 

In a statement, Sindh Minister for Information, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, has said that the government could not control the spread of the Corona virus without the cooperation of the people. 

He said that the government was considering various options to provide ration and cash to people belonging to the working class, especially the daily wagers, and various possible measures were in the final stages of implementation.

“In this regard, the Sindh government is also launching a mobile registration system, through which all needy people would be registered first and then after verification the cash would be transferred to them through mobile cash transfer service,” he added.

Metropolitan University await HEC verdict

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Metropolitan University Karachi (MUK), which was chartered by the Government of Sindh in 2015, awaits the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Islamabad-based Higher Education Commission (HEC), before opening admission at its spacious campus located on University Road near Safoora Chowk.

By the look of things, the management of the MUK has started feeling burdened by the long delay as it has not been able to open admissions despite having invested heavily in the development of the various facilities at their campus during the last five years.

Despite being chartered from the Sindh Provincial Assembly in 2015, they have been deprived of the opportunity to initiate their academic activities even after five years.

The MUK is believed to have built facilities at the campus at an estimated cost of PKR 500 million, on a piece of land whose commercial value is thought to be around PKR two billion.

The university complex appears ready to offer education services to a population of around six million as they still await the issuance of the NOC despite three costly inspections conducted by the HEC Islamabad, the decision of Honorable High Court of Sindh and the clearance of the HEC Sindh.

It has been learnt that the working capital reserved was now reaching to an end due to the administrative cost of around PKR 70 million.

The sponsors, management and staff of the MUK look forward to the HEC to save their dream institution from becoming a possible disaster.

They are still confident that the HEC Islamabad, respecting the law and the provincial government, will issue the NOC to the MUK in the larger interest of education.

Dewan Yousuf suggests Prime Minister to refrain from creating another task force

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Dewan Mohammad Yousuf Farooqui, an eminent industrialist and a former provincial minister, has advised Prime Minister Imran Khan to avail the existing infrastructure instead of creating a task force for ration distribution among the masses.

Talking to PNFS in Karachi on March 30, he didn’t mince words in declaring that considerable resources will be required to build a new task force for the purpose of reaching out people affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Both time as well as funds will be needed for carrying out this task of creating a new infrastructure for such an activity which makes little sense to me. Instead the government should utilize the information which is already in possession of area Deputy Commissioners. NGOs and welfare organizations could also be pressed into service to do the job with the collaboration of DCs,” he suggested. 

Dewan Yousuf expressed confidence in the abilities of DCs and the social workers who could jointly perform the action to fulfill the Prime Minister’s cherished goal of reaching out the people in need. 

“The government should devote its energies and resources in helping out greater number of people in every nook and corner of the country, who are in desperate need of support, instead of thinking in terms of creating a new authority or task force for carrying out this purpose,” he concluded.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus patients rise in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, on March 29, declared that Sindh had two more deaths due to Coronavirus infections in Karachi the previous day.

“We received the lab reports of the two patients after they had passed away and we found out that the cause of death in both the cases was pneumonia along with COVID-19. The patients were 83 and 70 years old respectively,” she revealed. 

Meanwhile, Sindh reported another 33 corona positive tests, all in Karachi, by 7 pm PST on March 29. According to the data, made available by the Sindh health department, the province, which reported its first Coronavirus positive cases on February 26, witnessed an increase of 19% in it's over all corona test tally. 

The tally increased up to 5,945 on March 29 against 4,810 of the previous day. The overall corona infection rate came as 8.44%, which was 9.75% on March 28.. 

A source privy to the corona control activities said that in the case of Karachi, which mostly received the air travelers from corona infected countries, there were 171 (74%) local contact cases, out of 230 cases. As such 59 infected travelers in question or other who could not be traced by local surveillance and cure team so far can be blamed for the spread of the disease in Karachi, the source remarked.

Karachi Mayor seeks Coronavirus testing facilities at more hospitals

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Anticipating that the testing for the Coronavirus will rise in the coming days in the city, the Karachi Mayor, Wasim Akhter, has urged the Sindh government to designate any of the public sector hospitals located in the central and western districts of Karachi for assessing the people against the virus, which has claimed three lives in the city so far. 

According to sources in the health department, there at present are five health facilities, including two run by the private sector, which have been listed by the government as COVID-19 testing facilities in Karachi. 

The Karachi mayor pointed out to the government that none of the centres in question were accessible by the common man, particularly due to enforcement of partial lockdown across the city, when public transport has come to a standstill following the provincial government’s directives. 

"People of District Central and West were unable to go to the government designated corona testing hospitals due closure of public transport. A hospital from Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi and Qatar Hospital Orangi Town can be declared a new testing facility and equipped accordingly," he suggested. 

The mayor in a statement, issued on March 29, asked the Sindh government to provide Coronavirus test facility at one of three public sector hospitals in district Central and West to cater over 10 million people residing there. 

Moreover, he emphasized that the government designated centres, limited in number, cannot cater the entire city, particularly the people of Districts Central and West.

He also demanded from the government to provide precautionary dress (Personal Protective Equipment) for doctors and paramedical staff and kits to the hospitals. 

The Mayor was of the opinion that more people will have to be tested in coming weeks that's why one of the three hospitals he named should be given the test facility. 

He stated that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) was facing shortage of funds, asking the Sindh government to provide kits and other facilities to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital which could cater both the districts. 

"The people of Orangi Town, Manghopir, Banaras, Pahar Ganj, Nusrat Bhutto Colony, Aligarh Colony and other less privileged areas cannot afford to go far as most of the people are daily wages. If they are not provided the facility nearby, their miseries might be increased," he noted.

Tendering his support to federal and provincial governments on behalf of what he said more than 300 elected representatives of local bodies to face this critical situation. 

He also appealed to the philanthropists to come forward and help the needy ones, adding local bodies representatives could be approached for identifying the poor and deserving for any governmental aid. 

In the meantime, residents in some parts of Karachi including Ibrahim Hydery and Liaquatabad came out demanding for free food (ration) supply.

PDMA orders for Coronavirus-related equipments

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Sindh, through World Bank assisted Sindh Resilience Project, has ordered medical equipment including 100 ventilators, 200 patient monitors, 15 mobile X-ray units, Personal Protection kits for over 15,000 medical professionals and over 150,000 surgical masks, according to a government handout.

These equipments would be handed over to the health department, Government of Sindh, for use at various hospitals, medical centres and quarantine facilities. 

Meanwhile, the PDMA Sindh, in continuation of its awareness campaign, has been continuously disseminating awareness messages and making phone calls to passengers who have recently travelled to Pakistan to guide them about the precautions to be taken against Coronavirus and motivating them to engage in self-isolation or contact health department if there’re any symptoms. 

The Minister Rehabilitation Department, Faraz Dero, in a message said that the PDMA Sindh was functioning round the clock for the betterment of public and shall continue to support frontline health workers and will never rest till the COVID-19 was dealt with accordingly. 

He further stated that the services being rendered by the staff of PDMA at this time was really praiseworthy while advising them to continue with the noble work for the safety of society and public at large with the same intensity.

KPT sprays disinfectant to contain Coronavirus

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) arranged for spraying of disinfectant on the roads and streets of Karachi in an effort to combat the spread of the deadly disease of Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The management of the KPT took the initiative of engaging trucks to spray the chlorinated water in and around the Keamari Road leading to the port. 

The various portions of the port were also sprayed with disinfectant. The purpose of carrying out the exercise by the KPT authorities was to make the port and surrounding areas safe and free from virus. 

Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar, Chairman, KPT, in a brief statement, observed that their institution, standing with the people at this critical moment of lockdown, will continue the spraying of disinfectant to contain spreading of Coronavirus.

NBP announce revised banking hours

By Syed Sajid Aziz
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), following the directives of the central bank, starting from March 30, will now remain open for public dealing from 10 am to 3.30 pm until further orders. 

The working hours at the selected branches will be observed from Mondays to Thursdays while the bank will be open from 10 am to 12.30 pm on Fridays. 

The spokesman of the NBP, Ibne Hasan, informed PNFS that the digital banking services and ATM will remain functional round the clock, as usual, and the customers have been advised to ring 111-627-627 for complaints or assistance. 

He further disclosed that the NBP management has ensured adequate safety measures at the branches and its offices for the customers as well as the staff in view of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“All the necessary precautions are being taken with emphasis on social distancing in these times for the safety of people,” he added.

4th batch of Chinese aid to fight COVID-19 arrives

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The fourth batch of Chinese government's medical assistance to Pakistan for anti-epidemic campaign arrived Islamabad on March 29.

The Chinese Ambassador, Yao Jing, the Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Lt General Muhammad Afzal, and the representatives of the Pakistan government and the military were present in the handing over ceremony at the Nur Khan Air Force Base.

On behalf of the Pakistan government, General Afzal thanked China for supporting Pakistan to fight the epidemic. 

He stated that since the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and people have adopted timely, decisive, scientific and effective prevention and control measures to successfully curb the spread of the epidemic. 

Reflecting China's firm political determination and strong organizational response capabilities, Pakistan appreciates China's success in fighting the epidemic, he said, adding that various sectors of the Chinese society have assisted the Pakistani side with many consignments of urgently needed medical supplies. 

He also mentioned that an expert medical team from China that arrived in Pakistan a day earlier, fully demonstrating the excellent tradition of Pakistan-China all-weather strategic partnership especially in time of need.

In this connection, General Afzal recognized that at the time of Pakistan's present crises situation, only China resolutely extended its helping hand to cope with the challenges. 

“The Pakistan government and all walks of life are deeply grateful. This is our true feeling from our hearts. The Pakistani nation is very proud of China-Pakistan friendship,” he concluded. 

Ambassador Yao asserted that China and Pakistan were true friends who shared the same distress and are good brothers who share at the same share happiness. 

At the most difficult time for China to fight the epidemic, the Pakistani government and people gave China valuable support. Pakistan’s President, Dr Arif Alvi, had visited China in person at the time China was facing difficult challenges from Coronavirus.

Now when the epidemic prevention situation in Pakistan is severe, the Chinese government has actively implemented the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and urgently sent aid goods to Pakistan to provide strong support for the anti-epidemic efforts of Pakistan. All sectors of society have also acted to help Pakistan. 

At present, the epidemic is spreading globally. The international community should strengthen its confidence and work together to respond. 

China upholds the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, and is willing to provide assistance within its capacity to other countries, reflecting the role of major powers and contributing to world economic stability. 

China will continue to stand firmly with Pakistan and take more active measures to support the Pakistani response to the epidemic. 

By jointly fighting the epidemic, China-Pakistan's all-weather strategic cooperative partnership will be further deepened, and the foundation of the China-Pakistan community of shared destiny will be more solid.  

Ambassador Yao was also interviewed by the media, present on the occasion, with the focus on China-Pakistan cooperation in fighting the epidemic.

Halqaa-e Arbaab-e Zauq holds online literary sitting

By Zaib Azkaar Hussain
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Halqaa-e Arbaab-e Zauq (HAZ), Karachi, created history of sorts by holding its first-ever online literary sitting in which writers from across the country discussed at length Urdu creations of three writers. 

The Zoom Cloud video conference was prompted by the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in which social distancing is strongly discouraged. 

The participants observed that the ‘Coronavirus factor' had compelled them not to hold a gathering but the tools of modern information technology provided them a good opportunity to hold an online literary meeting. 

Famous writer Shaguftta Shafeeq, who presided over the meeting, titled a 'tanqeedi nashist’ remarked that the HAZ Karachi had done a great job to hold an online gathering to discuss latest creations of three writers that included Sarah Mehboob, Naaz Arif Naaz and Mutriba Shaikh. 

She further said that Sarah Mahboob presented a relatively good Urdu ghazal that has amazing diction such as 'aaeena' and ‘hijro wesaal' and inspite of the fact that the ghazal had a romantic mood it brought to light a gap and distance between the lovers while symbolizing the 'mirror' as a reality of life. 

Underlining the Urdu 'khaaka' presented by Naaz Arif Naaz, the President of the meeting, noted thsat Naaz portrayed the personality of her husband (Arif) in her written sketch but she only projected qualities and avoided to argue on some demerits of life of her husband. 

She commended Mutriba Shaikh for her art of writing an article on a book of Urdu short stories titled "Dhoop mein jaltay khawaab' by Naghmana Shaikh', adding she presented a perfect paper. 

Shaguftta Shafeeq concluded that the paper underlined some of the stories of Naghmana Shaikh in relation to their subjects, characters and problems being faced by women in present times. 

Zahid Hussain Zahid, who was the chief guest on the occasion, thoroughly appreciated the three writers. 

However, the guest of honour from Lahore, Shahzad Nayyer, took exception of some weak diction in poetry and 'khaaka', saying instead of presenting repeated thoughts, the writers of modern times must experience fresh subjects and issues in their creations. 

Nevertheless, he appreciated Mutriba Shaikh for her piece, while noting that she tried her best to convey the content and characterization of stories of Naughmana Shaikh by discussing the worth and approach of the characters in different stories.

Yet it needed to be further elaborated the characters and treatment of the writer in her book. 

Shabbir Ibne Aadil, who was also guest of honour at the meeting, Khalid Danish, Asif Ali Asif, Iffat Naveed, Kamran Mughal, Muhammad Asghar Khan, Khalid Moin, Khawaja Muhammad Azam, Kashif Ali Hashmi, Surria Hayya, Yasir Bashir, Dr Shahid Zamir, Aqeel Abbas Jaffery, Afzal Hazarvi, Sikandar Rind, Naughmana Shaikh and others also expressed their thoughts on the three creations. 

Sarah Mehboob and Asif Ali Asif coordinated the online discussion while the HAZ Secretary, Zaib Azkaar Hussain, welcomed the meeting participants and threw light on the nature of the 'tanqeedi nashist' and expressed hope that the writers would take keen interest in discussing the literary and cultural issues through online meetings. 

Later, in an informal online 'mushaira', President of the meeting Shaguftta Shafeeq, chief guest Shahzad Nayyar, Surria Hayya, Asif Ali Asif, Asghar Khan, Sarah Mehboiob, Kashif Ali Hashmi, Zaib Azkaar Hussain and others presented their Urdu verses.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pakistan’s banks to facilitate customers to combat COVID-19

By Syed Sajid Aziz
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The banks operating in Pakistan have been allowed to facilitate their customers in the wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, having rocked the world. The circular in this regard was issued by the country’s central bank on March 28. 

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), in an attempt to combat the potential spread of the pandemic, has advised for limiting person-to-person interactions and to provide ease of services to the customers of the various banks. 

Now Direct Cheque Deposit Facility is being introduced under which a crossed cheque may be presented by payee/beneficiary directly into the paying/drawee bank instead of their bank branches as per the existing practice. 

Doorstep Cheque Collection Facility has also been launched in which Banks/MFBs may make arrangements to collect cheque from registered addresses of their customers upon their request. 

Drop box Cheque Collection Facility, under which customers may drop their cheques in drop boxes of their banks, will be installed in selected branches while the banks have also be authorized to allow their Corporates/Priority customers to send them the scanned image of the cheque along with relevant details of the Beneficiary either through registered emails or through mobile Apps of their banks to push funds from their accounts to the payee bank. 

The banks are being encouraged to implement additional risk mitigating measures as per their internal policies while offering these services to their customers. 

Further, in order to minimize person-to-person interaction, Banks/MFBs may also make arrangements with the Clearing House (NIFT) for clearing their cheques through Image Based Clearing (IBC) functionality as per the agreed SOPs between NIFT and banks.

Sindh government urged to increase Coronavirus testing facilities

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The overall rate of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Sindh was 9.50% on March 28 as compared to 9.43% the previous day while there was no change in the Sukkur pilgrims which stood at 7.76%. 

People have been somewhat relieved to see the rate of infection getting flattened during the last couple of days. 

In order to gain greater public confidence and support it has been suggested to the health data providers in Sindh to also provide details of 131 local transmission cases in Karachi as people will like to know if these new cases in question have been associated with the infected people coming from Iran or they contacted the infection through neutral persons, general crowd, workplace, market and transports. 

It’s also being felt that now time has come to observe scientific and convincing approach, otherwise any prolonged lockdown may backfire. It’s being pointed out that there may be no use of turning the majority of population into the lot of needy people, particularly as they don’t have any dignified mechanism to address social issues from hunger to health. 

The Sindh health department has tested 4,810 people for Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the province since February 26 according to official sources, as on March 28. As such on average 150 patients per day were tested for Coronavirus, who reported at any of the a dozen or so designated centres availing free kits from the health department or any other setting. 

And if we conservatively consider the population of Sindh to be around 55million, then the coverage rate comes as 27 people per ten million, which appears very nominal to have any practicable picture or trend of the infection. 

Here one could argue that the tests carried out by private sector units and a couple of public sector units using non-governmental kits are not included in the official list as either government takes the positive tested counts from them and not those which are negative. 

But at the same time it should be kept in mind that such units cannot afford to conduct such tests extensively as they have limited machines and expertise/technical hands including the specially trained hands that draw samples from patients for Coronavirus testing purpose 

On the other hand at present about 1,100 tests (half of it done by private sector facilities) ever day were taking place according to the Punjab health minister. 

If Punjab's population is thought to be around 110 million then it can be said that about 100 people  per day are being tested/day every 10 million people though the province is a late starter in the context of Coronavirus. 

The Government of Sindh is being urged to increase its assessing capacity/number of tests/per day while the authorities have been claiming that they were keen to overcome the shortcomings during the lockdown/partial curfew days. 

With the pandemic having wreaked havoc all over the world, the fear is growing among the masses and people wonder why more tests are not being carried out. At the moment only a few hospitals are doing it and they only report only the positive cases. 

The other day it was being claimed that the federal as well as the provincial governments were capable of preparing corona test kits indigenously. Probably PCRs and deployment of resources and trained manpower for an extended period seem to be the real issues.

If they find it plausible not to test neutral population, then should come up with the notion that virus was being found among foreign travellers (who could not be detained in the initial days of the crisis) and their family members/contacts only and general population is still not at the risk to any alarming extent. 

It has been generally agreed that lockdown/curfew can prove a time buying only if the government does not move in a scientific way. The task force needs to be broadened, involving more and more experts, like microbiologist, haematologists and infectious disease experts and other seniors from the public sector institutions. Engaging the universities for any meaningful exercise is another option yet to be tried.

Coronavirus Chronology 
February 26: Pakistan reported its first two cases of Coronavirus positive (Total-1,408, with 11 deaths)
February 26: Sindh reported the first positive case (Tally-469 cases, with one death)
February 26: Gilgit Baltistan reported first case (Tally-107, with one death)
March 10: Balochistan reported first case (Tally-133, with one death)
March 14: Islamabad Capital Territory reported its first case (Tally-39)
March 15: Punjab reported the first corona patient (Tally-490, with five deaths)
March 16: Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa reported its first case (Tally 180, with three deaths)
March 18: Pakistan reported the first two corona related deaths
March 18: Azad Kashmir reported its first corona case (Tally 02).

Dewan Yousuf advises government to avoid total lockdown

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Dewan Mohammad Yousuf Farooqui, a prominent businessman and a former provincial minister, has warned the government about the implications of lockdown if it was not properly defined before implementation. 

Talking to PNFS in Karachi on March 28, he emphasized that the government should take into consideration all pros and cons before arriving at any decision regarding lockdown to combat Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Indeed it’s a complicated situation to handle but it’s a duty of the government to look at all aspects. They have to decide about the areas which require lockdown and which are the ones that could be spared. A total lockdown could mean colossal to the economy which could lead even to unrest and civil war,” he believed. 

Dewan Yousuf appealed to the Government of Sindh that the industries, having labour colonies in their vicinity, should be allowed to work after meeting the safety requirements. 

“The gated and guarded factories were functioning after taking all precautions. They had kept their gates closed and the public access was blocked. The labourers were working in safe environment as the temperature inside was more than fifty degrees. After being engaged in eight-hourly shifts they had the option of moving safely into their restrooms,” he stated. 

“Closing down such industries has had multiple negative implications. Besides incurring huge financial losses to the factory owners as well as the staff, this action has prompted the labourers to go back to their villages where they are more vulnerable to contracting Coronavirus,” Dewan Yousuf added. 

“We hope and pray that the situation is controlled inside a couple of weeks. If the lockdown lasts longer, it could be terrible as a lot of time may be needed to re-establish the cycle of production and we might not be in a position to pay the utility bills or the government taxes,” the former minister explained. 

“In the prevailing circumstances the Government of Sindh should take the necessary steps keeping all such factors in mind. They should not lose sight of the fact that the developed countries like USA and UK don’t necessarily have labour colonies in the vicinity of industries while the immunity system of our people is also known to be better than those of their citizens,” Dewan Yousuf reminded. 

He advised the government to allow the industries, having labour colonies, to resume their working in safe environment.

Friday, March 27, 2020

China’s medical supplies arrive through Khunjerab Pass

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China delivered medical supplies to Pakistan on March 27 through the Khunjerab Pass, which is recognized as the highest land port on earth.

In a tweet, the Chinese embassy declared that both sides braved the cold and prepared for the medical supplies which will help combat Coronavirus. 

Earlier China had requested Pakistan to open the border for a day in order to have the supplies transported into the country. 

Under a border protocol agreement of 1985, the Khunjerab border crossing remains closed from the end of November to April. 

The embassy of China in Islamabad was also reported to have requested the Pakistan authorities to make due preparation before the delivery so that all materials could enter Pakistan smoothly. 

According to the details shared by the Chinese embassy, two tons of supplies worth 67 million rupees included masks, test kits, ventilators and personal protection equipment. 

Xinjiang had also donated 100,000 masks to Pakistan earlier this month while Pakistan had also received assistance in the form of medical equipment carrying 450,000 face masks including 50,000 N-95 masks.

Aziz Memon urges people to stay home, follow advice for fighting Coronavirus

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Aziz Memon, the National Chair of Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee (PNPPC) and a former Governor of Rotary International in Pakistan, has urged the people to stay indoors and follow the advice of the government in order to control and eradicate Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The number of patients contracted by Coronavirus has exceeded one thousand in Pakistan and the number of cases is increasing every day which suggests that our preventive measures are not upto the mark. A lot of people are not staying at home. Many people are not following the instructions being advised to them. The safety protocols are being ignored,” he observed in a televised message. 

“My dear friends it has become mandatory now to wash hands for more than 20 seconds regularly. It should be for a minimum of 20 seconds. The longer you are able to do it is more to your benefit,” he emphasized. 

“Please don’t touch your eyes, nose or ears with your hands. If you need to sneeze then please use a tissue paper. Even if you don’t have a tissue at that time then do it on your sleeve but avoid sneezing in the open,” Aziz Memon advised.

“If you can afford sanitizers then try to use it as often as possible. The virus doesn’t attack you randomly. It doesn’t come by itself but it comes by invitation only. As they say this virus has an ego. It will not come to you by itself. So it won’t reach you if you follow the precautions,” he continued.

“We are one nation and we stand united. We must follow the advisories of provincial and federal government. I will urge you to stay at home and perform your religious duties from there. Social distancing is essential. As no vaccine is available right now you have to take all this precautionary measures for yourself and your loved ones,” he explained. 

Later, talking to PNFS, Aziz Memon reminded that he had been pleading for these very things for several years to eradicate polio. 

“The world is polio free but we are not free from polio yet. Sometime religious leaders became a hurdle. Sometimes it became victim of politicians and at times NIDs were postponed to play cricket matches,” he regretted.  

“We have always stated that if eradicate polio we will strengthen our health system to fight a catastrophe like Coronavirus. We will win our battle against Coronavirus and one day make Pakistan polio free. Our real challenge is to strengthen our routine immunization in order to build immunity in children,” Aziz Memon reckoned.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

China preparing to send medical experts to help Pakistan fight COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chinese government, upon the request of its Pakistan counterparts, has started preparations for sending a team of medical experts to Pakistan to fight Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The Vice Minister of China’s National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin, made the announcement in Beijing in a press conference on March 26. He made these remarks while briefing media on China's cooperation with the international community in fighting the COVID-19. 

He revealed that China has immediately shared the COVID-19 related knowledge, prevention and control plan, and diagnosis and treatment plan with Pakistan since the virus outbreak in Pakistan. 

China also has introduced its experience in preventing, controlling, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 and other issues to Pakistan via video conference. 

At the press conference, Deng Boqing, Vice Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, added that China would like to share prevention and control experience with Pakistan in response to the COVID-19 challenge. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Pakistan, China has provided Pakistan four batches of medical supplies, including detection reagents, medical protective gowns, N95 face masks, surgical face masks and breathing machines. 

Moving forward, China is preparing to provide Pakistan with more urgently needed and scarce medical supplies and equipment. In addition, China will also assist Pakistan in building a makeshift hospital for isolation. 

When attending the press conference, Luo Zhaohui, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, disclosed that China has sent seven batches of medical experts groups to five countries (Iran, Iraq, Italy, Serbia and Cambodia) since sending the first group to Iran in February 27. It may be noted Luo Zhaohui had also served as Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan. 

“Each and every medical experts group, who brave the coronavirus to rescue people, has won warm welcome from the local governments and peoples,” Luo said. 

According to the reports published in the Chinese media, The medical rescue team to be sent to Pakistan will be established by medical workers in China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region while according to the earlier practices that each province is responsible for organizing a medical aid team.  Xinjiang has donated a batch of medical supplies to Pakistan, which arrived in the country on March 20. 

Besides government, the Chinese companies have been proactively helping Pakistan fight against the epidemic. On March 25, the first batch of relief materials donated by China’s Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation arrived at Karachi. 

The two Foundations will send the second and third batches of relief materials to Pakistan within a week, according to the Consulate-General of China in Karachi. 

“At the non-government level, enterprise and civil societies have joined one after another in the relay race of making donations to Pakistan,” Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, said.  

COVID-19 has been spreading rapid in Pakistan since the first two confirmed cases were reported on February 26. As of the morning of March 26, Pakistan has seen 1,102 confirmed cases with eight deaths while 21 patients were cured and discharged from hospital.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Photo Feature: Coronavirus brings world to standstill

Pakistan News & Features Services

The pandemic of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has rocked the entire world. The busiest of places have become deserted. The noisiest of spots have pin-drop silence now. 

There’s shock, gloom, grief, tension and apprehension in every nook and corner of the planet. 

As these photographs will explain, the once booming capitals have been massively hurt by the spreading virus. 

Beaches, hotels, golf courses, amusement parks, playgrounds, restaurants, movie theatres, shopping centres, tourist attractions, airports, railway stations, ports and harbours besides other recreational facilities, which remained crowded all along, look like haunted places these days.

Be it the Times Square or the World Trade Centre in New York City, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC or any square in Berlin or Munich they remain deserted. 

The historic Italian cities of Rome and Milan look vacant and unoccupied. The charming city of Paris doesn’t have visitors either. 

The Las Ramblas Street in Barcelona and the downtown London could be found empty during rush hours. 

The theatres in Moscow are as devoid of audience as the diners in the restaurants of Beijing. The magnificent beaches of Los Angeles and Sydney don’t have visitors now. 

There are very few people at the otherwise buzzing airports of Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Dubai as there are travel bans in place at most destinations. 

Life has come to standstill in Iran following the massive outbreak while the Far Eastern countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have also been bruised. 

Coronavirus has crippled the life in Pakistan too with the preemptive lockdowns forcing the people to stay indoors.
                                                                Berlin, Germany 

Bogota, Columbia 

Caracus, Venezuela 

Hong Kong

Karachi, Pakistan

London, UK

Milan, Italy

Moscow, Russia 

Munich, Germany

New York, USA

Paris, France

Seoul, South Korea

Sydney, Australia

Tehran, Iran

Tokyo, Japan

Toronto, Canada

                                                            Washington DC, USA