Thursday, April 30, 2020

Of doctors being saluted by cops!

Pakistan News & Features Services

The doctors in Pakistan, having generally complained of being treated harshly by police when coming face to face during demonstrations, protests or strikes, have experienced a pleasant change of attitude on part of the law enforcers when working as the frontline fighters during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The policemen as well as the paramilitary rangers have lately been found saluting the doctors on the roads of Karachi, Islamabad and other cities, reflecting positive vibes and boosting the morale of those directly fighting the deadly virus. They have been showing massive respect for healthcare workers, hailing them as the first line of defence against COVID-19. 

Similar change of attitude of cops has also been witnessed in many other countries where the doctors have been stopped on the roads, not for the verification of their documents but for saluted and recognized. Such gestures of showing their respect to medics, have meant a lot to doctors and other healthcare workers around the world.

An expatriate lady doctor, working in Dubai, recently described it an unforgettable experience when police stopped her car and gave a salute instead of checking her documents during curfew hours. 

Dr Ayesha Sultana was reported to be returning home on April 28 when stopped by Dubai Police near the Al Mulla Plaza on the Dubai-Sharjah highway. She was driving home to Sharjah after finishing her shift at the Al Ahli Screening centre in Dubai. 

"I did panic a bit and I was focused on getting my work permit and other documents to prove I am a doctor. But to my surprise, the policemen refused to check my documents and instead gave me a salute and said I can go. This is the best reward you can get as a doctor,” the doctor was quoted as saying.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh reports 104 deaths in April

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh recorded an all days’ highest 12 coronavirus related deaths in Karachi on the last day of April, with 358 (13.83%) new infections among 2,587 tested for COVID-19. During the month of April, the health authorities in Sindh tested 47,429 people suspected for the virus, out of which 5,374 were found infected with the virus, while total number of deaths during the month came as 104. 

The overall death rate due to coronavirus remained about two per cent during the month, while on average 3.46 persons died every day across the province. 

In additions to the 12 deaths reported on April 30 at 8 am, another upsetting development for the health managers and workers across the province was an increase of about three per cent in the province’s daily new COVID-19 infection rate. Its daily new infection rate ranged from 8.14% to 10.64% during a period from April 23 to 28 and 10.99% on April 29.

Of the 12 COVID-19 related deaths declared on April 30, five occurred in the government hospitals, DUHS (Ojha) Hospital (4) and PNS Shifa (1), while four in the private health settings, Indus Hospital (3) and Aga Khan University Hospital (1). 

Three patients lost their lives at their respective homes, said the official sources, adding that the deceased patients included three females aged 60, 55 and 75 years, respectively, and nine males aged 74, 38, 42, 48, 62, 51, 70, 74 and 76 years respectively. 

Appearing concerned over the rate of COVID-19 deaths, keen observers suggested that this was high time government’s health managers and advisers paid attention to the ‘out of proportion’ rate of deaths which might get worse further. 

The increase in deaths indicates that the overall management of critically ill patients was not up to the mark, added a government sector physician saying the reported shifting of COVID-19 patients from one hospital to another should also be discouraged, while more attention be given to those who are old-age and co-morbid. 

Another source in the health circles said that the hospitals handling the critically ill patients should be advised to pool their resource of expertise together to address the situation. 

“Government had moved to improve the intensive care facilities and ensure sharing of experts between the competent and less competent hospitals in the hour of need, but little could be known later.” 

It was further said that the government should ensure specialized medical care in the case of patients who are being treated at homes as many of them needed more than what the civil administration officers are doing in their case. 

According to health department’s data issued on April 30, in all 6,053 people including pilgrims, expatriates, tableeghi jamat members and local transmission cases, were tested positive for COVID-19 in Sindh since February 26 when the first cases of the infection was detected in the province, out of which 112 patients expired at Karachi (101), Sukkur (4), Hyderabad (2), Shaheed Benazirabad (1), Ghotki (1), Larkana (1), Tando Mohammad Khan (1) and Matiari (1). 

In all 54,377 people have been tested so far in the province. The new infections were reported from Karachi (299), Shikarpur (34), Dadu (6), Hyderabad (5), Sanghar (4), Sukkur (3), Jacobbad (2), Jamshoro (1), Naushehro Ferroze (1), Thatta (1), Matiari (1) and Mirpurkhas (1). 

Of the infected people across Sindh 53 more recovered during the last 24 hours ending at 8 am on April 30, taking the total number of patients who recovered from the disease to 1,222 (20.18%), against 4,105 (24.9%) out of 16,473 across the country.

Microsoft sales rise as working from home creates greater demand in COVID-19 crisis

By Syed Sajid Aziz in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought about catastrophes to many business houses but the profits of Microsoft Corporation have continued to rise in this period.

The American multinational technology company, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has disclosed that its quarterly sales and profit rose, buoyed by demand for internet-based software and cloud services needed to accommodate a shift to remote working during the coronavirus period. 

According to a company statement issued on April 29, the profit in the period ending on March 31, rose to US$ 10.8 billion ($16.5 billion), or US$ 1.40 a share while sales rose 15 per cent to US$ 35 billion. 

The results from the world's largest software maker topped analysts' average estimates for US$ 1.28 a share in profit and US$ 33.7 billion in sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Founded by Bill Gates, Microsoft is believed to have thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic because of its focus on cloud offerings, like Office productivity tools, Azure services and subscription programs that are less vulnerable to spending slumps. 

Even the Windows PC-software and Surface device units did better than the company had projected, thanks to an easing in supply-chain disruptions in China just as workers began to stock up on new gear in March to outfit home offices.

Bollywood’s chocolate hero Rishi Kapoor to be missed

Pakistan News & Features Services

Rishi Kapoor, who remained the heartthrob of millions for decades, went down fighting as he too lost the battle against cancer in a Mumbai hospital on April 30. He was 67.

For the second day running, the entertainment industry was robbed of a legend. Irrfan Khan, the star of Hollywood and Bollywood, had passed away at the age of 53 in the same city due to cancer. 

Rishi was a part of the great Kapoor dynasty which ruled the Bollywood for decades, starting with Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor yesteryears to Kareena Kapoor, Karishma Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor of today. 

The Kapoor family had their origins in city of Peshawar in Pakistan where Rishi’s grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor and his father Raj Kapoor were born. 

The family migrated to India after the partition in 1947. Rishi had visited his anecstors’ residential building, called Kapoor Haveli, in Peshawar in 1990. 

Being the youngest son of the great Raj Kapoor, Rishi had made his debut in movies as a child artist but he rose to prominence with the blockbuster Bobby, in which he played his first-ever lead story, at the age of 20. 

He continued charming and mesmerizing the audience with his soft mannerism and unmatched elegance to emerge as the real chocolate hero of Bollywood during the times when the baton of superstar changed hands from Rajesh Khanna to Amitabh Bachchan. 

Rishi excelled in playing role of the romantic lead in dozens of films for over two decades after which he succeeded in making a successful transition to character roles. 

He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018 and returned to India last September after a year-long course of treatment in New York. Upon his return, he was hospitalized a few times but recovered. He, however, lost the battle when taken to hospital on the morning of April 29 after he had complained of breathing difficulties.

UK premium carmaker accelerates manufacturing in China

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The British premium carmaker Jaguar Land Rover's China performance is recovering as the coronavirus outbreak was brought under control and subsequently the economy getting back to normal.

The company disclosed that its sales in March were seven times more than the figure of February, when the pandemic was at its peak in China. Richard Shore, President of Jaguar Land Rover China and Chery Jaguar Land Rover Integrated Marketing, Sales and Service, stated that the recovery surpassed his expectations. 

"Our growth momentum continues in April and our sales are picking up," he said. 

The carmaker's plant at Changshu in Jiangsu province has restarted production and all its dealerships have opened their doors.

Shore remained optimistic about sales potential at least in the second quarter although the pandemic's impact on the Chinese economy and in particular the auto market was still unclear. 

He reckoned that the major reason of the performance lied in China's timely and effective efforts to combat and control the pandemic. 

Within two months, the pandemic has been basically put under control and the economy is steering back to normal, which he called a phenomenal success. 

Shore took the helm of Integrated Marketing, Sales and Service in January, and pushed forward Pan's strategy in the company and launched the next phase of the project ‘Project Dragon.’ 

"Our goal remains 'double growth', which means sustainable growth and win-win results with our dealer partners," Shore said. 

"Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, we wouldn't like to give them too much pressure. Instead, we would like to ensure their profitability, and we believe that is the recipe for sustainable growth," he added. 

Shore remarked that the company will continue to improve dealerships' capabilities through training sessions so that they can better implement the customer first philosophy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Irrfan Khan, star of Hollywood, Bollywood leaves a legacy

Pakistan News & Features Services

Irrfan Khan, the star of Hollywood and Bollywood, passed away in a Mumbai hospital on April 29 and he was buried hours after he had lost the battle with a colon infection. He was 53.

According to reports, he had been rushed to hospital for treatment on April 28 and placed in intensive care. He didn’t last long as his fight with cancer, which commenced in 2018, ended fatally. 

The incredibly gifted Irrfan, hailed as a man of few words but an actor of silent expressions with his deep eyes, would long be remembered for his memorable movies and the roles he played in them. He has left behind a legacy of his own. 

Irrfan Khan was acclaimed as one of Indian cinema's finest actors and among its most successful exports to Hollywood. 

By his own admission in some interviews there were times when thought his acting career would be over with the TV soaps he had worked in at the beginning. 

He had a modest entry in Bollywood but he went from strength to strength, capitalizing on the opportunities coming his way. 

Besides succeeding in Bollywood he dashed to Hollywood and proved a success story there too. He was one of the most popular actors, having enjoyed massive following all over the world.

Pakistan’s professor elected as fellow of Royal Society

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta of the Aga Khan University (AKU), has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s leading scientific body, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to global child health over three decades.

Professor Bhutta is globally recognized for his research breadth and productivity. 

Widely published, he is the highest-ranking public health researcher in the Muslim world and was recently ranked by Stanford University among the top 0.01 per cent of the most highly cited scientists globally. 

He’s quick to emphasize that these contributions were the result of collaboration and teamwork with faculty and researchers in Pakistan, Canada, and across the world. 

He has been a faculty member at AKU since 1986 and his scientific research has focussed on raising living standards in some of the world’s most vulnerable populations including women, newborns and children in low-income countries, marginalized rural areas and conflict-affected settings. 

From the outset, he has set his research priorities around pressing national and global issues, particularly amongst underserved populations and in understudied areas of need, initially on childhood diarrhea and malnutrition, and global newborn care.

Coronavirus Update: Record 404 new infections in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

At a time when Sindh is about to complete the declared coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown period, it reported a record 404 new infections cases for a day on April 29, with eight relevant deaths, including two of women. Earlier, the province had reported an all days’ maximum 383 new COVID-19 infection cases on April 26. 

A study of data suggested that Sindh had an increase of 53% in its number of daily tests on April 28 in comparison of April 23 number of tests but it showed its overall COVID-19 infection rate stable around 11%. Its daily new infection rate ranged from 8.14% to 10.64% during a period from April 23 to 28, according to the provincial coronavirus data.

Sindh’s overall infection rate was found 10.99% on April 29 at 8 am, with a total 5,695 positive cases among 51,790 people, including pilgrims, tableeghi jamat members and expatriates, tested for COVID-19 since February 26 when the province declared its first coronavirus positive case in a young man who had a travelling history of Iran. Sindh reported its first death among the coronavirus infected people on March 20 

According to the data, on average 2.43 deaths took place per day in Sindh in a span of 41 days after the day of first coronavirus death. As many as 44 deaths were reported during a period from April 20 to 29 giving an average of 4.4 deaths per day, causing a source of concern among the health circles. 

The daily summary on coronavirus of the health department said that six of the COVID-19 patients lost their lives at Karachi while one each at Larkana and Ghotki, which pushed the tally of districts having reported such deaths to eight. 

Karachi has reported in all 89 deaths so far, followed by Sukkur (4), Hyderabad (2), Shaheed Benazirabad (1), Tando Mohammad Khan (1), Matiari (1), Larkana (1) and Ghotki (1). Those who died at Karachi included four males of ages ranging from 68 to 74 years and two women of ages 55 and 66 years, respectively. One man of 45 years died at Larkana, while another man of 66 years died at Ghotki. 

The health department did not give any further details but medical professionals believe that the old-age COVID-19 patients, mostly those who are old and have co-morbid like hypertension, diabetes, asthma or are smokers, find it difficult to survive. 

The official infection report showed that the daily new infection rate of 88.77% for Karachi as on April 26 decreased to 83.41% on April 29, with 337 new cases, out of 404 tested across Sindh. 

Sukkur reported 14 new cases, followed by Khairpur and Larkana districts, with 13 cases each, Hyderabad (9), Shikarpur and Shaheed Benazirabad, with seven cases each, Mirpurkhas (2) and Dadu and Umerkot, with one case each. 

In the meantime, in his routine video message, the Sindh Chief Minsiter Syed Murad Ali Shah said that two flights from abroad brought back 505 stranded Pakistan to Karachi, out of which 69 were diagnosed as positive, while 39 results were yet to come. 

He said that the testing capacity of the laboratories operating in Sindh was being enhanced, while a new lab at Larkana was being established. “Some industrial units and online business have been allowed to operate but they would have to follow the SOP,” he added.

Spain plans four-phase strategy to return to ‘new normality’ in June

Pakistan News & Features Services

Spain has planned a four-phase strategy to lift its stringent coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and return to what has been described as ‘new normality’ by the end of June. 

While making the announcement, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez remarked that each region would be entitled to relax restrictions at its own pace keeping in mind the severity of its outbreak. Four Spanish islands will be first to relax the measures from May 4 while the rest of Spain will be following a week later. 

More than 24,000 people have been killed in Spain because of the pandemic which infected a colossal 0.213 million people in the country. 

The Prime Minister has outlined a fuller de-escalation plan with four phases, each expected to last about two weeks. He disclosed that the process would take a minimum of six weeks, and hopefully no more than eight. 

Due to the massive destruction caused by the virus, Spain has endured some of the world's toughest containment measures since March 14, with children having been banned from going outside for six weeks. 

The Spanish children, under the age of 14, have now been permitted to leave their homes for one hour a day, between 9 am to 9 pm. 

Spain had taken an early step on April 13 by allowing professionals in manufacturing, construction and some services to return to work.

India’s farm growth unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Unlike other sectors, having been devastated by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, India’s farm growth is unlikely to be impacted much due to the onslaught. 

The Agriculture Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, claimed on April 29 that the farm sector was functioning smoothly despite COVID-19 lockdown and it should not cause much impact on its growth in the current fiscal unlike other sectors.

"In the current lockdown situation, the agriculture sector is functioning smoothly as there has been no shortage of food grains, vegetables and dairy products. But, many other sectors are impacted,” the minister remarked during a media briefing. 

"Agriculture GDP was at 3.7 per cent during last year. I am confident that this growth in future will not be impacted much," he added. 

“The impact of lockdown on the overall agriculture GDP will not be much this year on hopes of good rains. And the government has exempted farm activities from the lockdown rules,” he said.

Ehsas Kafaalat beneficiaries clash with police

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A clash between police and Ehsas Kafaalat beneficiaries reportedly took place in Kadhan centre near Badin, resulting injuries to dozens of police personnel and beneficiaries. 

The angered and frustrated beneficiaries allegedly pelted stones while police had ruthlessly baton charged to disperse the crowd. 

The action created uneasy situation and tension in the city. It was also reported that the beneficiaries had allegedly broken main entrance gate of the centre. Police has arrested more than 10 beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, in line with the lockdown directives, the traders were forced to close down their business and the appeals to let them carry out some business activity were turned down. 

The national lockdown, which has been extended from April 30 to May 9, has severely hit small traders and daily wagers who have been denied the opportunity of conducting business during the holy month of Ramazan.

Balochistan’s household income growing faster than other provinces: Survey

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Balochistan has the lowest average household income, yet it grew that number faster than any other province in the last five years, a survey of the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey 2018-2019 revealed. 

The survey, which conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and published by a local media house, showed that the average household income in Balochistan grew by 21% since June 2014 when the last edition was published. \

This is the highest growth rate for any province but it remained at the bottom with the lowest household income of Rs 36,387 per month. Punjab led with Rs 42,861 closely followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while Sindh was in the middle of the two extremes, shows the Household Integrated Economic Survey, which was launched in 1963 and became part of PSLM in 2004. 

The overall trend for average monthly income at the household level showed an increase of 16.5% to Rs 41,545 in the five years under review. 

The report also shows incomes of the first quintile or the poorest segment grew much faster (by 12 percentage points) than that of the fifth quintile, the richest segment. 

The latest HIES exercise covered 24,809 households and collected information about their income, savings, liabilities, and consumption expenditure and consumption patterns at the national and provincial levels with an urban-rural breakdown. 

The average monthly consumption expenditure increased 14% since the 2014 survey to Rs 37,159 in fiscal year 2019. 

The breakdown of income segments shows a wide gap in average consumption expenditure between the first quintile (the group with the lowest consumption) and the fifth quintile, those whose consumption expenditure is the highest. 

A similar trend emerged in the provincial breakdown where the urban population’s consumption was 37% higher than their rural counterparts. “Wages and salaries is still the largest component of household income,” the report said, noting it accounts for 42% of household income. 

“Non-agriculture activities and Wages & Salaries showed increasing trends whereas dependence of household income on crop production and livestock is decreasing over the time,” it said.

Pakistan, China deliberate on transfer of prisoners

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has held deliberations in Beijing on a treaty on the transfer of convicted criminals between China and Pakistan.

Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, presided over the meeting, the Chinese media reported. It was decided to submit the above draft to the ongoing NPC Standing Committee for review. 

It may be recalled that both sides had held initial deliberations in August 2014 in Islamabad and reached consensus on a series of provisions. 

In November 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, witnessed the signing ceremony between Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and China’s Justice Minister, Fu Zhenghua in Beijing. 

The treaty is considered as an important legal document on judicial assistance which has laid a legal foundation for China and Pakistan to strengthen cooperation on the transfer of sentenced persons. 

Once the treaty comes into force, the two countries would be able to transfer sentenced persons back to their own country. The bilateral treaty will come into force after being endorsed by top legislature of the two countries.

China to celebrate May Day with caution

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The May Day holiday is just around the corner. Since this is the first five-day holiday after most parts of the China have reported zero new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, to travel may seem to be no big deal any more.

Yet, while people will desire to get out and about to enjoy the nice weather and scenic spots are keen to get back to business as usual, preventive measures are still more than necessary to prevent the possible transmission of the virus. 

The total number of visitors to scenic spots during the coming holiday will undoubtedly be more. 

In order to cope with people healthcare and to respect the May Day importance, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism along with the National Health Commission, have jointly released an advice requiring scenic spots to have tourists make a reservation for their visits, and the total number of visitors a scenic spot receives at any time should not exceed 30 percent of its potential full capacity. 

The visitors within a scenic spot should be allowed to enter sporadically to avoid any gatherings. Given that there are still imported infections as people return from overseas, and there are reportedly nearly 1,000 asymptomatic people under observation, scenic spots need to adopt such measures to the letter lest some asymptomatic visitors who have no knowledge about their carrying the virus transmit it to other visitors.

The joint efforts of both the government and the public have achieved success in containing the spread of the virus, providing a relatively safe environment for people to travel. 

There should be no problem for them to choose to make a reservation to visit a scenic spot and enjoy during the five-day holiday. 

But it is important that they make necessary preparations to protect themselves. They need to carry with them enough face masks, sanitizers, hand disinfectant and, if necessary, gloves. 

They need to always wear face masks in public venues and never touch anything when back at a hotel before washing their hands. They should also remember to stay away from crowds. 

For those who choose to stay at home and only visit the parks near their homes, they also need to adopt the same protective measures as the parks will likely be no less crowded than those well-known scenic spots. 

The cooperation and thoughtfulness of every individual makes a difference to the overall fight against the virus. This long holiday will be a test for what the governments at all levels have been doing in the fight against the virus. 

If they continue to do a good job and make sure no new infections take place during the holiday, the country will hopefully get nearer to its final triumph in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

China’s postponed iconic sessions in May

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

This year's two sessions, China's most important annual political event, will be held in late May in Beijing, an official release issued on April 29, declared.

The third plenary session of the 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, will kick off on May 22, while the third plenary session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory body, will start on May 21, according to the information in the official handout. 

The term ‘two sessions’ refers to the annual full session of the NPC, which customarily begins on March 5, and the annual plenary session of the CPPCC National Committee, which was originally scheduled to open on March 3. 

Both the sessions this year were postponed in February, as the nation was focusing on fighting the novel coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) at the time. 

Every year during the two sessions, about 3,000 national legislators and 2,150 national political advisers travel to Beijing to review work reports of the central government, top judicial authorities and the annual budget, and to bring voices from the grassroots and different social sectors to the central leadership.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Deaths mounting in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh, which had been able to see its overall COVID-19 infection rates stable in the recent days, witnessed no reduction in its prevailing rate of relevant deaths as the health authorities here confirmed on April 28 that another seven virus infected patients, including three females, lost their lives at Karachi and two districts of the province.

Contrary to the overall COVID-19 death rate of 2.13% in the country, Sindh had its overall death rate as 1.73%, with a total 92 deaths among 5,291 infection cases on April 28. It had a death rate of 2.20% on April 20, which decreased to 1.71 by April 27, but increased to 1.73% again on April 28.

Apart from the overall death rate, keen observers noted that Sindh showed the death rate on average 1.91% in seven days, from April 21 to 27, when 24 people died of COVID-19 in hospitals and homes.

The disturbing fact is that Sindh reported seven deaths on April 28 again, said an analyst, commenting that such deaths, mostly including the senior citizens, obviously made one feel that hospitals were upset due to continued presentation of coronavirus cases.

“They were yet needed to improve their patient filtration points for a timely detection and treatment of patients and strengthen their critical care units and staffs,” the expert commented.

On the other hand Sindh had an the overall infection rate of 11.01% among 48,061 suspected people on April 28, against the country’s overall rate of 9.29% among 157,223 people who were tested for COVID-19 across the country.

Earlier, the provincial rate ranged from 10.83% to 11.39% during a period of April 21 to 27. On April 28, as many as 335 new people were detected infected by coronavirus after testing 4,112 tests across the province.

According to the health department data updated on April 28 at 8 am, 267 new cases were found in Karachi, taking the city’s tally of infected people to 3,791. New cases were also reported from Hyderabad (17), Jacobabad (10), Sukkur (7), Shikarpur (7), Tando Mohammad Khan (6), Shaheed Benazirabad (5), Larkana (5), Sanghar (5), Dadu (3), Tharparkar (2) and Naushehro Feroze (1). 

According to the health department, four COVID-19 patients died at Karachi, two females aged 66 and 24 years, respectively, and two males aged 69 and 56 years, receptively. Sukkur reported deaths of two men aged 66 and 56 years, respectively while Matiari, where for the first time two infected cases were reported on April 26, declared its first death due to coronavirus, a woman aged 66 years. 

In the meantime, another 38 people recovered from the disease, pushing the total number of people recovered to 963 in the province.

Australia eases lockdown restrictions

Pakistan News & Features Services

Australia, a paradise on earth, has reopened as the country has relaxed coronavirus restrictions after a drop in the death rate. The states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia have eased up the restrictions while New South Wales and Victoria, the two biggest states having enforced the strictest lockdown, don’t plan on lifting these measures until mid-May. 

Australia, into its second month of COVID-19 lockdowns with every state enforcing physical distancing law slightly differently, has witnessed consistently low numbers of new infections leading to the relaxation in a few rules. 

However, the Australians, for most part, are still required to stay at home unless they have crucial work, shopping or exercise reasons as the leaders reckoned that there was no fast and easy way to return to a ‘pre-coronavirus’ norm. 

The Western Australians now have been allowed the freedom to enjoy picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking and camping as they brought about changing rules of coronavirus lockdown. 

Western Australia and South Australia have also expanded the national two person limit on gatherings to 10 people but meet-ups still have to be for essential reasons like weddings which were previously restricted to five people. 

In states like Queensland, people can now go shopping again for fashion, have a picnic in the park or go for a swim at the beach. The residents can do all of these activities as long as it is within a 40 minute drive from home. The beaches were never closed but people can now lie on the sand in groups of 10 as long as they observe social distancing.

New Zealand announce elimination of COVID-19

Pakistan News & Features Services

New Zealand, one of the most disciplined nations on earth, has made the welcome announcement of having eliminated coronavirus (COVID-19) from the country as the restrictions have been eased from level four to level three with new cases down to single figures.

The level three ruling went into effect on April 28, which allowed businesses to partially reopen with some restrictions, including requiring physical distancing of two meters outside of home. 

New Zealand's Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, had declared on April 27 that with just one new case, four probable cases and one new death they had the confidence of having achieved their goal of elimination. 

"Our goal is elimination. And again, that doesn't mean eradication but it means we get down to a small number of cases so that we are able to stamp out any cases and any outbreak that might come out," he added. 

New Zealand's popular Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, however, warned that the country needed to remain alert even though coronavirus was currently eliminated. 

"So as we have said elimination means we may well reach zero but we may well then have small numbers of cases coming up again, that doesn't mean we have failed, it just means that we are in the position to have that zero tolerance approach to have a very aggressive management of those cases and keep those numbers low and fading out again," she remarked. 

"It's been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have been impossible. But we did. And we have done it together," the Prime Minister observed while praising the efforts of New Zealanders.

PLISJ beats lockdown to arrive in time yet again

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Although the ongoing lockdown, being enforced to prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) from spreading, has brought life to a virtual standstill throughout the country, only a handful of organizations and institutions have managed to remain afloat in the prevailing situation. 

Quite remarkably, the Pakistan Library and Information Science Journal (PLISJ), a quarterly publication of the Library Promotion Bureau (LPB), Karachi, has succeeded in bringing out its April-June 2020 issue (Volume 51, Number 2) in time once more.

The PLISJ Chief Editor, Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari, who is also the Founder President of the LPB, has to be credited for accomplishing this gigantic task in the most challenging of situations.  

Having stayed back in Pakistan, instead of returning to North Amercia where he normally spent his summers, he has kept his associates motivated even during the lockdown period with his dossiers via email. 

A former chairperson of the University of Karachi’s Library and Information Science department, he has continued to be the motivation as well as the binding force in keeping the bureau alive, with the help of his able and trustworthy lieutenant, Prof Dr Nasim Fatima.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh's tally inches towards 5,000

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The tally of coronavirus positive cases in Sindh reached to 4,956, with 85 related deaths, as another 341 new cases were reported from across the province, with 4 deaths on April 27.

According to official sources, four men of ages ranging from 62 to 89 years died due COVID-19 infection at the Aga Khan Hospital, Ziauddin Hospital and Indus Hospital in the city, which recorded a total of 79 deaths due to the virus, followed by Hyderabad (3), Sukkur (2) and Shaheed Benazirabad (1). 

It was further learnt that in all 57,562 people were screened, while 43,949 suspects were tested for COVID-19. 

The positive tested cases included 74.3% males and 25.7% females. The frequency of cases by age was found as 01-10 years –193, 11-20 –391, 21-30 –1117, 31-40 –955, 41-50 –675, 51-60 –657, 61-70 –412, 71-80 –127, 81-90 –20, and 91-100 –one, while 557 got cured in last 15 days. 

According to the sources a total 2,733 tests were conducted at 10 designated laboratories during the last 24 hours ending at 8am on April 27, against a capacity of conducting 3,720 cumulatively per day. 

The Sindh health department’s daily data on corona cases revealed that 275 new cases were detected in Karachi, 23 in Khairpur, 12 in Hyderabad, 12 in Larkana, eight in Ghotki, four in Sukkur, two in Matiari, one each at Thatta and Jacobabad while 53 patients recovered from the diseases in the last 24 hours.

Lahore, Karachi worst affected by COVID-19

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi, with 3,524 cases of COVID-19, on April 26 was second to Lahore in the context of the virus that has spread across the country, infecting 13,669 people so far (till April 27) and claiming 285 lives, according to a daily situation report compiled by an international health agency.

The report updated on April 27 at 9 am revealed that Lahore was on top of 10 districts with highest burden of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the country. 

Lahore reported the highest percentage of cases, with 23%, followed by Karachi (13%), Peshawar (6%), Rawalpindi (5%) and other districts. 

Karachi recorded its and country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus on April 26, while the first case of coronavirus was reported in Lahore on March 14. 

According to the record, since April 22 onwards the number of new coronavirus cases remained above 600 per day. 

It further reveled that there were 376 health workers infected with coronavirus in the country: Doctors-181 (48%), Paramedics and others 140 (37%) and nurses-55 (15%). As many as 132 health workers were hospitalized, while 152 were in home isolation and 87 have recovered from the diseases and five have died.

Time for Muslim Ummah to rise and deliver

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

“The Muslim Ummah is engaged, for the last three months, in a battle against tiny yet powerful enemy with its undercover force with global reach and capability to move with tremendous speed causing unprecedented casualties and breaking its economic back. The Ummah’s strategic planners tried all weapons in its armory but to no avail. It even looked around to seek weapons from technologically developed nations to fight, but non available!”

This was observed by Senator Nisar Memon, a former federal minister, in his latest newspaper article.

“In this hour of trial and tribulation arrives the blessed holy month of Ramadan 1441 AH which can be a vaccine for faithful to fight the enemy COVID-19 which hides deep inside our body,” he wrote. 

“The Ummah is battle fatigued and aiming to unleash its tried and tested weapon of ‘fast’ to fight back. It is the time for our leadership to call upon its Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to stand resolutely together to fight against common enemy to save the Ummah, this fight will also benefit the humanity at large,” he advised. 

“The OIC was founded half a century back in 1969, subsequent to fire in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Currently it has 57 member states with a total population of over 1.9 billion, about a quarter of world population, with 21% habitable area of the world. It is the second-largest intergovernmental organization in the world after the United Nations,” Senator Nisar Memon reminded. 

“The organization states that it is the collective voice of the Muslim world and works to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony. So here we are, with mighty OIC and its leadership which includes Khadim al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn the Custodian of the two Holy cities, the King of Saudi Arabia, and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran,” he added. 

“The leaders of Ummah should put their weight behind the OIC to implement the 25 point communique of Executive Committee which met and issued it on April 22, 2020. The communique is commendable in putting a united front against COVID-19. The Rapid Response Initiative of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) to launch a US$ 2.2 billion Strategic Preparedness and Response Programme to counter the pandemic and OIC-ISF Urgent Initiative to assist Member States and the ISF’s donation of US$ 1 million to the contingency account,” the former federal minister remarked. 

“This would strengthen the organization of faithfuls to serve their people without fear and favor. What better times than Ramadan to pray for forgiveness from Allah of our past omissions and commissions and seeking the righteous path. Not only will leadership earn the respect of their masses but also of the Creator. The leadership in each of the OIC country need to send Ummah’s message, not their personal or country messages, by their demonstrated capability to bring Ummatis on path ordained for them,” he suggested.

Chinese funded enterprises relief goods arrive Islamabad

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The China state-owned airlines plane carrying consignments of relief goods from China landed at Islamabad on the evening of April 26. 

The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, attended the handing over ceremony of the Chinese-funded enterprises' anti-epidemic materials at the Islamabad International Airport.

Pakistan’s Energy Minister, Omar Ayub, Chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Affairs Bureau, Asim Bajiwa, Wang Zhihua, Business Counsellor and heads of Chinese companies were present on the occasion, according to the Chinese Embassy sources. 

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Yao said that since the outbreak of the new coronary pneumonia epidemic in Pakistan, the Chinese government, enterprises and all sectors of the society have supported the Pakistani government and people in combating the pandemic through donations, materials and medical expert teams.

“China will continue to stand firmly with Pakistan and take more active measures to support Pakistan in responding to the epidemic,” he assured.

“It is believed that with the joint efforts of China and Pakistan, Pakistan will surely overcome the epidemic and the foundation of the community of shared destiny between China and Pakistan will be more solid,” the Ambassador hoped.  

Energy Minister, Omar Ayub, expressed his sincere gratitude to the Chinese government and enterprises for their generous assistance, saying that China has been very effective in fighting the new crown epidemic and is a model for the international community to learn. 

Pakistan too, he added, was trying to learn from China's experience and fight the epidemic with full might.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Record 383 new cases found in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed over 33% increase in its daily tally of new coronavirus cases, with three new deaths in Karachi, while the virus reached to Matiari, the last COVID-19 free district of the province, on April 26. 

Sindh recorded 383 new coronavirus positive cases, including 340 detected at Karachi, during the last 24 hours ending at 8am on April 26, against 287 of the previous day. 

The April 26 figure was all days’ highest number of cases reported in Sindh since February 26 when the first case of COVID-19 was detected here. Earlier, the highest increase in the new cases was recorded on April 16 when Sindh presented 340 cases. Sindh’s overall COVID-19 infection rate came as 11.19% on April 26.

Matiari was included in the official list of coronavirus reporting districts of Sindh with two new positive cases. It took the virus exact two months to reach Matiari from Karachi. 

In view of the increase in number of cases, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, chairing a meeting on April 26, called for further development of isolation centres and field hospitals in Karachi. 

“The pace of new cases is significantly high and as such efforts should be made to meet the related demands, including increase in the capacity of Karachi Expo isolation centre, establishment of field hospitals at Dalmia Ground, Darul Ehsas on Manghopir Road and in the convention centre of the PAF Museum,” he observed. 

As per the Sindh health department reports, three men aged 52, 55 and 74 years, respectively lost their lives due to coronavirus infection at one government and one private hospital, during the last 24 hours. The 52-year-old patient also had diabetes, while the 55-years-old patient had an autoimmune disease, having developed when the immune system mistakenly attacked the body's own healthy tissue. 

According to the corona-summary issued by the department, 340 new cases were reported in Karachi, while another 17 in Sukkur, followed by Hyderabad (7), Naushshero Feroze (4) and other districts. 

While the virus has spread in all districts, the breakdown of total reported cases was: Karachi-six districts (3,249), Sukkur (409), Hyderabad (263), Khairpur (169), Ghotki with no new case (124), Larkana (108), Shaheed Benazirabad reporting no new case (84), Tando Mohammad Khan with no new case (32), Sanghar (26), Naushehro Feroze (23), Shikarpur with no new case (17), Dadu (15), Jamshoro (15), Badin (15), Jacobabad with no new case (11), Sujawal with no new case (9), Mirpurkhas (9), Kashmore with no news case (9), Tando Allahyar (8), Thatta (6), Umerkot with no new case (4), Tharparkar with no new case (4), Kamber Shahdadkot with no new case (4) and Matiari (2). 

According to the official updates, in all 41,216 people have been tested for coronavirus across the province, out of which 4,615, including 3,249 at Karachi, tested positives, while the death toll remained 81 across the province so far. 

In the meantime, according to sources in health circles, the emergency section of the KMC-run Abbasi Shaheed Hospital was closed for 24 hours on April 26 to carry out fumigation there, following a report that a doctor of the hospital had tested positive for coronavirus the previous day.

Turkish mosque sets example by distributing groceries among COVID-19 victims

Pakistan News & Features Services

A mosque in the Turkish city of Istanbul has set a unique example of social service by setting up a supermarket of sorts at its premises from where the needy persons, hit hard by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, could come over to collect the grocery items of their choice without paying anything.

The management of Dedeman mosque in the Sariyer district has placed the commonly consumed items like rice, flour, bread, pasta, oil, biscuits, milk and eggs at the racks near its entrance and the setting resembles to that of supermarket. But unlike the supermarket, everything here is available free of cost for the needy persons. 

The philanthropists and resourceful persons are being encouraged to donate the goods at the mosque in order to facilitate larger pool of people to receive them. The sign at the mosque’s window says that anyone can leave there something and those in need can take anything. 

It has been reported that this idea was a brainchild of the 33-year-old imam of the mosque, Abdul Samet Cakir, who was eager to reach out people in need via the place of worship after Turkey had suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of outbreak was over. Its major cities, including Istanbul, have been under lockdown. 

The imam has derived the inspiration by a donation culture in the Ottoman period known as ‘charity stone’ in which a small pillar stone was erected at certain locations of the city to connect rich people with the poor. The practice was aimed at giving charity in a dignified manner without offending the needy people.

Suspended shopping revive hard-hit Italy

Pakistan News & Features Services

Italy has been among the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic where over 195,000 people have been infected, and more tragically, as many as 26,384 persons have perished. 

The catastrophe has caused huge damage to their economy as more than two million businesses are reported to have been affected, leaving one out of two workers without income. 

But Italy, being a great country, is preparing to come out to regain its glories. The Italians are engaged in putting a new twist on an old custom to help the needy and restart the economy. 

Piazza San Giovanni della Malva in Rome was known to echo with the noise of crowded cafes and restaurants. But the only business open now is a grocery shop, Er Cimotto, which is so small in size that social distancing forces customers to order through the window. 

Now-a-days the shoppers ask some money to be added to their bill for what's called la spesa sospesa ‘suspended shopping.’ The concept derives from the century-old Neapolitan tradition of ‘suspended coffee when a customer in a cafe pays in advance for someone who can't afford it. 

Shop owner Michela Buccilli remarked that suspended coffee has been replaced with suspended grocery shopping. "The customer who has something leaves something for those who don't," she said.  
The store usually doubles the amount donated and provides food that does not spoil fast, such as pasta and canned goods, to a local aid group, the Sant Egidio Community which distributes it to the needy. 

Suspended shopping is an act of charity in which the donor doesn't show off and the recipient doesn't have to show gratitude. With Italy's economy in suspension, the custom is being broadened with a view to the future. 

Puntarella Rossa, a website for foodies, recently launched il calice sospeso, the suspended wine glass, an initiative to help Rome's wine bars in shutdown. Since April 1, more than 150 customers have paid for wine-in-waiting at some 30 wine bars. 

Manuela Mazzotta, who runs a hair salon and wedding planning business, has come up with another new initiative. With her businesses on hold, she started a Facebook page on March 20 with the hashtag #AdottaUnNegozio 'adopt a shop.'

"The customer buys a gift card now, when shops are shut down. That helps us owners pay the rent or utility bills and tide us over until the reopening. It put us in a better mood than our current sense of desperation,” she was quoted as saying. 

Paying for something now and getting it after lockdown is one way to help shopkeepers from going bankrupt and at the end of the virus tunnel, return to business as usual, hopefully soon.

Artists stage protest in Badin

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The local artists of Badin, a town of Sindh, staged a protest demonstration against the alleged nepotism in distribution of ration. 

They protested in front of the Tando Bago Press Club for what described as favouritism and nepotism in ration distribution. 

Quite a few popular area artists, including singers, drum beaters, flute players and others, held the protest that was being led by renowned poet and singer Darhoon Dukhayal and others. They chanted slogans against unjust distribution of relief items among the people. 

Talking to media on the occasion, the protestors claimed to have been deprived of assistance amid persisting lockdown in the city which had caused their unemployment and their families faced enormous trouble in making ends meet. 

Stating they were fighting hard for economic survival, they expressed bitter disappointment with the government officers in their town. 

“We had rushed to the Assistant Commissioner of Tando Bago for provision of ration but he paid no heed as such and we were disappointed with his attitude,” they revealed while appealing to the high ups for resolving their problems.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh reports higher infection rate than national average

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh’s overall COVID-19 infection rate came as 11.08% against the country’s overall 9.15% on April 25 when it reported another 287 new cases of the virus infection, with three more deaths of patients. 

The official COVID-19 data, updated at 10.45 pm on April 25, showed Pakistan had total 12,644 confirmed cases of infection out of 138,147 samples tested across the country, while Sindh had overall 4,232 COVID patients after testing 38,188 people across the province since February 26 when the first coronavirus positive case was found in Sindh as well as Pakistan. 

A study of the provincial data revealed that Sindh which was having the overall infection rate ranging from 9.5% to 10.5% till April 20, got an increase of hardly one per cent in it in the following days. The overall coronavirus infection rate of Sindh stood at 11.08 on April 25.

The increase, according to some observers including government officials, can be attributed to the reported expansion in the testing activities after April 21, which covered the Pakistanis returning from Oman through the Karachi airport. 

A day back in his video message, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, sharing details about Pakistanis stranded in other countries had said that 849 persons, including 62 crew members were flown back recently. 

They were tested for coronavirus and 127 among them had tested positive while the results of 26 were yet to come, he added. 

In the meantime, the Sindh Health department’s daily coronavirus summary revealed that the three persons, who lost their lives due to the lethal infection, during the last 24 hours ending at 8 am on April 25, were living in Karachi and their age ranged between 51 to 74 years. 

Overall 78 people have died of COVID-19 in the province, including 72 at Karachi, three at Hyderabad, two at Sukkur and one at Shaheed Benazirabad, while 802 persons have recovered from the disease and as many as 3,352 patients were undergoing treatment at hospitals, isolation centres and homes. 

Karachi reported 217 new cases of COVID-19, followed by Larkana (17), Hyderabad (13), Sukkur (12), Shikarpur (11) and Sanghar (6). Shaheed Benazirabad, Ghotki, Kamber Shahdakot, Mirpurkhas reported two new cases each, while Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Tando Allahyar reported a case each.  

As per the official data, the district-wise breakdown of the COVID-19 cases stood at: Karachi (2,909), Sukkur (392), Hyderabad (256), Khairpur (167), Ghotki (124), Larkana (107), Shaheed Benazirabad (84), Tando Mohammad Khan (32), Sanghar (25), Naushehro Feroze (19), Shikarpur (17), Jamshoro (14), Dadu (14), Badin (13), Jacobabad (11), Kashmore (9), Sujawal (9), Mirpurkhas (8), Tando Allahyar (6), Thatta (4), Tharparkar (4), Umerkot (4) and Kamber Shahdadkot (4).

Chinese developed COVID-19 vaccine shows positive results

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China has announced that its inactivated COVID19 vaccine has moved to the second phase of its clinical trials after having shown highly positive signs s far. 

The People’s Daily, in its report published on April 24, broke the news while referring to the development of the much talked about vaccine. 

It was revealed that as many as 96 persons in three age groups had been injected the vaccine in first phase of clinical trial as of April 23 and the vaccine had shown good safety so far, the newspaper said.

China sends consignment of medical supplies to US

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Unperturbed by what the American or western media may be saying about China and its role in containing and finally overcoming coronavirus (COVID-19), the Chinese leadership has maintained ethos for humanity for all as they have dispatched a huge volume of medical supplies to United States of America (USA) to help mitigate from suffering due to the deadly virus. 

While the US and the West have been found engaged in a blame game against China, the Chinese authorities, on the contrary, has continued to be compassionate and caring for humans all over the world. 

On April 24, a plane, carrying nearly 20 tons of medical supplies, took off from Wuhan, once the hardest hit by COVID-19, for New York. It was China Southern Airlines’ first passenger flight that was used for delivering cargo from Hubie province. 

Meanwhile China has reported zero new COVID19 deaths for 10 consecutive days as of April 24, while the number of patients in severe conditions was on a downward trend, the PD reported quoting National Health Commission (NHC) sources.