Sunday, May 31, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh inching to 500 deaths

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Amidst concerns that the government has been unable to get desired results from the healthcare providers in the contest of COVID-19 wave, the provincial authorities on May 31 confirmed 16 more related deaths, with 885 new cases of the infection, bringing the overall tally of fatalities to 481 and positive cases to 28,245 for Sindh. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in a statement, said that another 553 patients have recovered from the coronavirus disease, while 13,954 were receiving treatment either at homes and isolation centres, in addition to 1,073 at different government or privately run hospitals across the province, which constituted only eight per cent of the active COVID-19 patients in the province.

After giving a district-wise breakdown of new cases, he said that the preventive measures on part of people were the only answer to the pandemic. 

“Now the cases are on the increase in the rural areas as well, which is result of carelessness including non-observance of the social distancing and  not discouraging the social gathering,” he regretted. 

The chief minster gave an account of month to month increases in the COVID-19 fatalities since March 19 when the first patient died at Karachi. He expressed his sorrow over the demise of patients but he did not go beyond the numbers. 

On the other hand, routine COVID-19 summary was also not available to the media on May 31 and as such even the places of residence and hospitalizations of the patients also could not authentically be known. There was no feedback on the subject from the department despite reminders, which seemed to confirm the perception that department was in a state of panic and covering up for the failures.

However, some other official sources revealed that almost all the patients, except one of Sukkur, lost their lives at six or so public and private hospitals of Karachi during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on May 31. 

So far, 393 patients have lost their lives in 27 private and public hospitals across the province, including AKUH (44 deaths), CHK (37), Indus Hospital (43), JPMC (59), LUMHS Hyderabad (12), DUHS (59), SIUT (55), Ziauddin Hospital (23, PNS Shifa (14) and others, while the remaining 88 patients died in home-isolation or on their way to hospitals. 

It was further learnt that 62 COVID-19 patients were using ventilators, while another 101 such patients were off ventilators at different hospitals across the province. 

A source revealed that 10 of the patients died off ventilators on May 29, six of them perished at home, two were not clinically advised by doctors, while the other two died due to sudden collapse/cardio-pulmonary arrest. 

As of May 29, a study made with reference of frequency of age of confirmed-19 cases suggested that the disease was highest (11,692) in people living in the age brackets of 20-40 years, which speaks a volume about the restrictions enforced by the government. 

When contacted, a senior teacher associated with a public university, briefly commented on the COVID-19 activities in Sindh, requesting not to mention his name, and said that situation was getting worse day by day. 

“There seems to be very little strategic planning except what we could see during the early days by Sindh government,” he continued saying they were leaving the critical or otherwise patients just at the mercy of hospitals, which needed to be addressed. 

According to reports, 4,100 samples were tested during the last 24 hours, taking the Sindh’s tally of tests to 180,823. The new infections were reported from Karachi (617), Hyderabad (25), Larkana (24), Jacobabad (24), Shikarpur (16), Jamshoro (8), Sanghar (8), Mirpurkhas (5), Kambar Shahdadkot (3), Shaheed Benazirabad (2), Matiari (1), Dadu (1), Tando Allahyar (1) and Tando Mohammad Khan (1).

London mayor calls for continued free travel for Under-18s

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has urged the government to allow Under-18s to continue to get free travel after demands for its withdrawal were made part of £ 1.6 billion lockdown bailout conditions. The children are currently entitled to Oyster cards allowed free or cut price travel, depending on their age.

The mayor has reckoned that stopping it under the social-distancing guidelines on overcrowding would hit the poorest hardest, according to a BBC report. 

The government had indicated that it was working with transport authorities to reduce demand. The Transport for London previously announced that free travel for children would temporary end under conditions of the government's continuing £ 1.6 billion deal. 

In exchange for the emergency funding, transport bosses also agreed to start collecting fares again on buses, restore a full tube service as soon as possible, and temporarily suspend free travel for over-60s during morning peak hours. The congestion charge was also brought back earlier this month and it will be subject to a rise in cost, from June 22.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, the mayor of London observed that while he agreed with the need to reduce the numbers of children using bus services in particular but felt suspending free travel was not the right thing to do. 

"It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever," he wrote. 

The transport department has also calculated that about 30% of children who currently travel by bus to school would still be eligible statutorily for free travel, according to the mayor. 

He added that the significant cost of this would fall on local boroughs while also undermining the effectiveness of introducing bus fares for children as a way of reducing bus usage.

Veteran educationist passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Anwar Ahmed Zai, having worked for a long time in the education sector, passed away in Karachi on May 31. He was buried later in the afternoon. 

According to the family sources, he had been admitted at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) for the last couple of weeks where he suffered a fatal heart attack on the morning of May 31. 

He headed the Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi, besides the Board of Secondary Education, Karachi, and Board of Matriculation and Intermediate Education, Mirpurkhas. 

He also held the positions of the Director of School Education, Karachi, Executive District Officer, City District Government, Karachi, and Additional Secretary, Education, Government of Sindh. 

Upon retirement from the government service, he was associated with the Ziauddin Education Board, Karachi, as its Executive Director.

Ramazan, Eid with a difference

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

“This Ramazan, majority of Muslims around the world while observing Rozas (fasting) offered Taraweeh (late night prayers) quietly in their homes, except a few, who defied government instructions and advices of religious leaders and prayed in mosques. It was against the common sense behavior of protecting themselves, their families and other citizens from the risk of deadly COVID-19,” Senator Nisar Memon, a former federal minister, observed in his latest newspaper article.

“Such a response evokes no surprise because we have neither provided basic education nor proper religious education to our compatriots. Else they would have shielded themselves from pandemic despite Islamabad’s confusing and conflicting response and lack of uniform support to provinces on this pandemic,” he felt. 

“In the spirit of Ramazan the leadership of Ummah, apart from the Fund they committed, did not announce any policy to make us proud Ummatis. The Muslim leadership did not demonstrate their numerical strength but instead succumbed to the worldly gains and protected their own power rather than their people and other Ummatis without realizing that these worldly gains are too meager compared to the wrath of Allah on the Judgement Day and possible denunciation by citizens when they rise,” the former federal minister opined. 

“But what is puzzling is their inability to prepare a Universal Plan for future to fight hunger and disease (now COVID-19 too) which has struck people of Sahara’s in Africa, mountains of Himalayas and plains in Asia. True to their teachings, the Ummatis did not wait for leadership and have massively contributed Zakat and Khairat amongst Ummatis to fulfill their religious obligations as well as national responsibility,” he remarked. 

“It was the month when the Muslims rededicated themselves to their Creator and sought guidance provided in Quran. It was a rebooting to be able to meet the challenges that lie ahead including the pandemic and in doing so serve fellow citizens and earn His favour for coming days and ultimately for the eternal life,” the Senator added.

“Allah says in the Quran, in Surah Al-Baqarah (2-183): ‘O you who believe, Siyam (fasting) is prescribed on you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may become self-restrained.’ The importance of Siyam in Ramadan is clearly expressed in several sayings of the Prophet (SAW). All Muslims, particularly the leadership, need to do soul searching on their conduct during the month of Ramazan and seek pardon,” he wrote. 

“Eid at the end of holy month of Ramazan is expression of gratitude to the Creator that it gave us the chance to practice His teachings and a festive occasion amongst friends and family. Festivity of Eid this year is somber affair due to sufferings of millions and departure of thousands from this world due to pandemic,” he concluded.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Karachi besieged with record single-day deaths, infection

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi, the largest hub of coronavirus cases in the country, on May 30 reported its all days’ highest number of new infections and relevant deaths as 1,043 and 35, respectively, taking the Sindh’s tally of infections to 1,247 and deaths to 38 for the day. Previously the megapolis had registered its maximum daily new infections (872) on May 20 and daily deaths (30) on May 29. The tally of infections in Karachi has reached to a staggering 21,879.

In the meantime, despite the demise of 65 COVID-19 patients on May 29 and 30, the situation related to intensive care unit beds at 12 hospitals of Karachi did not changed considerably. There were 51 patients on ventilators with another 79 off vents while nine beds were vacant on May 30.

A keen observer said that largely the patients were being kept on ICU beds equipped with ventilators, while they did not require the ventilators and as such, on the other hand, more deserving vent seeking patients were denied admissions on the pretext that ICU beds were already occupied. 

It was suggested that the health authorities should ensure maximum and timely utilization of ventilators available in the ICU block or units of hospitals handling the COVID-19 infected patients. 

“They may have a separate block or section of ICU beds, without ventilators for those who do not need ventilators, so that more and more vent deserving cases are accepted at hospitals.” 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily COVID-19 related statement said that there were still 310 patients getting treatment in critical condition while 522 were released from hospitals after having recovered from the diseases.

He added that 12,566 coronavirus infected patients were receiving treatment at their respective houses, while 127 were isolated in Quarantine centres, in addition to 931 admitted at various health units across the province. 

Though there was no elaborate information about 35 patients who died at Karachi, a health department summary said that the deceased persons included 12 women and 23 men. 

The deceased men were in the age brackets of 40-86 years while women were aged between 40 to 73 years. 

Three more patients died of COVID-19 diseases outside of Karachi, a woman aged 45 years at Sukkur, a man of 41 years at Thatta and another woman, aged 80 years, lost her life at Hyderabad. 

Apart from Karachi’s 1,043 new cases, other districts also reported cases of infection during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on May 30. The cases were reported from Ghotki (29), Hyderabad (24), Larkana (23), Jacobabad (22), Sukkur (21), Shikarpur (21), Jamshoro (14), Khairpur (8), Shaheed Benazirabad (8), Sujawal (8), Kambar Shahdadkot (5), Mirpurkhas (5), Dadu (4), Thatta (3), Badin (3), Kashmore (2) and Sanghar (1). 

The province has detected 27,360 coronavirus positive cases so far out of 176,703 samples, the official summary added.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Sindh hospitals look forward to getting more equipment in next fiscal year

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh public sector health facilities, faced with severe shortage of life supporting machines and equipment, may start receiving ventilators at the beginning of the new fiscal year, this emerged on May 29.

At a meeting of the Sindh Coronavirus Emergency Fund Committee meeting, chaired by Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah, Director General of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority said that 100 ventilators, previously ordered, will be received by June 25 this year. 

Giving various approvals of new procurement under the emergency fund committee, the Chief Secretary, who heads the committee, told the meeting that an amount of Rs 1.5 billion has so far been spent out of a total of Rs 3.61 billion collected in the fund.

In the meantime, the committee approved a sanction of Rs 466 million coming from the budget of Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) for purchases of 168 ventilators, while another Rs 237 million were approved for procurement of laboratory equipment besides other machinery and medical equipment.

Mumtaz Ali Shah said that the medical equipments were being purchased for the field isolation centers established at the Karachi Expo Centre and PAF Museum and other hospitals of the province. 

He further said that the ventilators would be installed at different government hospitals. 

The Chief Secretary directed the Secretary Health, Zahid Abbasi during the meeting to establish coronavirus wards at the Sindh Government Hospitals in Korangi and New Karachi apart from Qatar Hospital in Orangi Town and the KMC-run Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. 

He also reviewed the progress on upgrading the ICUs and HDUs in public sector hospitals of province and inspection and audit of the medical equipment being delivered to hospitals.

Meanwhile the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) expressed its concern over the increasing number of deaths of doctors in the country due to coronavirus, mentioning the deaths of doctors within the last 24 hours, Dr Sana Fatima from Lahore and Dr Zubair Ahmed from Quetta and  Dr Naeem Agha, also in Quetta.

“Protection of doctors is a very serious issue and we have been continuously raising our voice for the protection of doctors. We have written letters to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and to the Chief Ministers of all provinces,” Dr S M Qaiser Sajjad, PMA Secretary General, observed in a statement on May 29, adding that there were flaws due to which doctors continued suffering.

Anticipating a further worsening of COVID-19 situation in the country the PMA leader noted that, with the increasing number of patients, the government should increase the facilities at hospitals. 

“The quantity of trained staff, beds, ventilators, C-pap and Bi-pap (non-invasive ventilation machines) should be increased at all corona designated hospitals,” he urged.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh’s record deaths, lack of information cause alarms

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

While working at a slow pace the provincial government, yet to procure intensive care related machines and other medical equipment for public sector health units, confirmed unprecedented demise of 30 more coronavirus infected patients in Karachi during the last 24 hours, on May 29, with 804 new infections across the province. 

According to the official COVID-19 summary, the overall Sindh’s death toll rose to 427, an average over six deaths every day since March 20 when the province had reported its first such death, while the total number of infections grew to 26,113, out of which 12,750 could recover from the lethal disease. 

However, the health department’s personnel, despite requests and queries, did not go beyond death number and ages of deceased patient.

Such a silence over heap of deaths with no provision of hospital names and information about patients stay period at hospitals, their health history and kind of treatment they were given at hospitals and why they could not be saved, in contrary to recent past when the provincial health minister by herself had been discussing every COVID deaths in detail, has confused the citizens as well as the covering journalists. 

A senior public health concern, requesting not to be named, said that the recovery rate was increasing but still so many deaths, seemed beyond comprehension and reflected poorly on the quality of treatment and care the coronavirus patients have been getting at the government and privately-run hospitals. 

The authorities should ensure a line listing of deaths, which normally includes dates of admission and death; patient name, address, gender and ethnic group; presenting complaint; duration of symptoms; summary of physical examination; and the diagnosis presumed to be the cause of death, he added saying summary of such measures can be released on a daily basis to win the trust of the community in their physicians and care providers, otherwise the official figures will serve just a mind-boggling reference. 

A senior microbiologist, Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazami, reckoned that the government was yet to attain the right direction to overcome the corona epidemic.

“I am expecting a further increase in the count of infection and death as well as asymptomatic cases in the next two weeks,” she assessed, adding that those who went shopping and other activities during the relaxed lockdown got exposed and the virus was incubating in their bodies (4-14 days’ incubation period) which could lead to another spike in cases. 

Another perception was that perhaps the hospitals had lost their craftsmanship and just issuing the death certificates. 

The hospitals should be held accountable for every death; there was no active internal/external audit system in the issue of deaths and patient care, therefore it should be outlook of the chief executive of the province now to rectify the affairs at the hospitals, said a keen observer. 

According to the data released on May 29, a total of 31 deaths occurred due to corona infection during the last 24 hours, including 30 at Karachi. All deaths, according to the health department personnel, were reported from different hospitals. 

At Karachi, eight women who lost their lives were in the age brackets of 30 to 80 years, while 22 men deceased aged between 40 to 88 years. Apart from Karachi, Kashmore district reported its solitary death, an 86-year-old male patient. 

Giving a summary of deaths among coronavirus patients across the country, another report revealed that 73% deceased had co-morbidity, 93% deceased remained hospitalized, with average hospital stay of 4.66 days; 57% among hospitalized remained on ventilators, with average ventilator stay of 2.78 days. 

It was further learnt that of the 186 admissions at the Aga Khan University Hospital, 43 patients were cured while another 43 succumbed to the lethal disease. Similarly, at the Civil Hospital Karachi 36 were cured, 28 died, out of 131 admissions, at Indus Hospital eight were cured while 35 died out of 89 admitted patients. 

At Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre 15 got cured, while 57 lost lives, out of 109 admissions; at Dow University Hospital 30 were cured out of 156 admissions while the death toll came as 54. Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation cured 31 of the 142 admissions, while 53 died; at Ziauddin Hospital 10 cured, 20 lost life, out of 54 admissions. 

Sindh’s 804 newly detected infection cases included 634 from Karachi followed by Hyderabad (37), Sukkur (31), Ghotki (24), Larkana (23), Jacobabad (10), Jamshoro (10), Badin (7), Shikarpur (7), Dadu (4), Matiari (4), Umerkot (3), Mirpurkhas (2), Sanghar (2), Shaheed Benazirabad (1), Naushero Feroze (1), Kashmore (1) and Tando Mohammad Khan (1).

Punjab minister reports encouraging results from COVID-19 injection

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

As a record number of 57 people lost their battle against fatal coronavirus disease in Pakistan during the last 24 hours, the Punjab Health Minister, Dr Yasmeen Rashid, claimed to have obtained encouraging results from the trial on COVID-19 patients by using injection that originally used for the treatment of some other ailment.

She stated that the injections could be applied twice within 24 hours on acute coronavirus patients. 

The cost of the two set of injections is over Rs 100,000 which, according to her, was being borne by the government. 

She further said that as many as 10 patients have so far recovered by using this injection. 

Meanwhile, the Punjab Kidney & Liver Transplant Institute (PKLTI) has initiated treatment of coronavirus patients with plasma. 

The authorities have appealed to people, having recovered from the virus, to come forward and donate their plasma to save the lives of others.

Pakistan’s flag returns after space voyage

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

 A national flag of Pakistan, which returned after the space voyage, was handed back to the Pakistan Ambassador to China, Naghmana Hashmi at a ceremony held at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) in Beijing on May 29.

The national flag was sent to outer space onboard Tian on May 5, 2020 and re-entered earth on May 8. The space module was launched into outer space by a Long March 5B rocket. 

Speaking on the occasion, the Pakistan Ambassador congratulated the Chinese research institutions for the successful space mission. 

Recalling excellent bilateral cooperation between the two countries in outer space ventures, 

Ambassador Hashmi referred to launching of PRSS-1 and PakTES-1 satellites in July 2018. The two sides are engaged in regular technology transfer and exchange of experts and delegations. 

The Ambassador hoped that China and Pakistan would further build on their cooperation in space exploration, leading to the travel of first Pakistani astronaut to space in 2022. For this purpose, Pakistan and China had signed an agreement for Cooperation in Human Space Flight Activities in April 2019.

Nisar Memon desires government support for restaurants

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Desiring governmental support for the small restaurants all over the country, Senator Nisar Memon has urged the authorities to be compassionate with this particular sector, so badly hit by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The Punjab government has reportedly allowed opening of the restaurants. Notwithstanding its impact on current COVID-19 spread, the small restaurant owners are suffering two-folds. Firstly with the loss of revenue and secondly they are enduring the burden of paying their staff for all these three months,” the former Federal Minister highlighted in his statement issued on May 29. 

“In view of this, it is just and prudent to allow opening of restaurants with some SOPs particularly in small towns like Gharo on N5 in Thatta and all the way up to Kashmore. The Sindh government will earn the goodwill of its people suffering from this comparative disadvantage,” he advised. 

“Civil services, including the police, should mitigate and not enhance the sufferings due to current economic situation. Let the elected representatives stand up and give their views to the Sindh government which has done a good job despite man-made difficulties coupled with natural calamity since the beginning of this year. This is also time for federal government to help the way they helped daily wages workers,” Senator Nisar Memon concluded.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh’s record infection, limited facilities terrifying

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Amidst concerns that intensive care and high dependency units at hospitals, designated for coronavirus infected patients, particularly at Karachi, were under immense pressure due to shortage of trained staff, life supporting machines and beds, the health authorities on May 28 confirmed detection of another 1,103 COVID-19 positive cases, an all days’ highest figure since February 26 when the province reported prevalence of the disease. 

According to the health department summary, having resumed after a gap of four days, Sindh’s COVID-19 cases surpassed 25,000 at 9 am on May 28 while the provincial tally of relevant deaths was inching towards 400. Last time, the maximum number of new infections was reported in Sindh on May 9, with 1,080 cases. 

The experts, during official meetings and interaction with media, largely appeared fearful due to the given upward trend of the coronavirus disease and the related deaths, stressing need for more and more increases in the healthcare provisions both in terms of quality and quality in the available health settings.

They highlighted the role of intensive care (IC) or therapy units and high dependency units (HDU), saying ICU treats patients, whose lives are at risk mostly due to failure of lung or failure of kidney or heart and blood vessel. 

“Treatments include a ventilator taking over the patient’s breathing while the patient is anaesthetised, a dialysis machine cleaning the blood and drugs or machines supporting the heart and blood pressure,” they added, saying one in five patients in hospital may need ICU care. 

A source in the government said that a daily statement of ICU, HDU and isolation beds was seriously taken up during a high level meeting on May 27. 

The report pertained to 22 government designated healthcare facilities belonging to both the public and private sectors has obviously prompted the people at the helm of coronavirus affairs to address any anticipated untoward, particularly in the wake of recent doubling of the COVID-19 positivity rates in the province. 

According to the country wise data, updated on May 27, there were 2,377 ventilators at various hospitals in 13 major cities of Pakistan, out of which 708 were reserved for COVID-19 patients and only 128 were occupied.

In the meantime, as per the Sindh health department’s daily COVID-19 summary, 16 more deaths of coronavirus infected patients occurred in the province during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on May 28, taking the provincial tally of deaths to 396. 

At Karachi, 12 patients including four females of age between 45 to 66 years, died. The eight male patients who lost their lives due to the lethal virus aged from 49 to 80 years. Hyderabad, Ghotki, Naushero Feroze and Shikarpur reported one death each, involving one female and three males in the age brackets of 62 and 72 years.  
As per recent practice. however, the health authorities did not reveal the names of hospitals or homes and medical history of the deceased patients. 

As many as 871 new cases were reported from Karachi division, followed by districts including Hyderabad (32), Kambar Shadadkot (32), Shikarpur (25), Larkana (20), Sukkur (19), Ghotki (18), Naushero Feroze (17), Khairpur (14), Jacobabad (11), Mirpurkhas (10), Thatta (10), Jamshoro (7), Sanghar (4), Tando Mohammad Khan (4), Kashmore (3), Dadu (2) and Shaheed Benazirabad (1). 

With the latest detection of positive cases, Sindh’s tally reached 25,309, while 1,924 patients, an all days highest, recovered from the diseases during the 24 hours, taking the number of cured COVID-19 patients to 11,190. 

On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, along with Sindh Minister for information, Syed Nasir Shah, and Sindh Health Secretary, Zahid Ababsi, visited an under construction 400-bed hospital building at old NIPA roundabout in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on May 28.

The building, according to the chief minister, would be made functional as the COVID-19 Infectious Diseases Hospital, under the supervision of Dow University of Health Sciences in one month time.

No afternoon curfew in Sindh on May 29

Pakistan News & Features Services

Unlike the Fridays during the last couple of months, lockdown in Sindh will not be intensified from 12 pm to 3 pm on May 29, it was officially confirmed.

The Sindh Information Minister, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, announced that mosques will remain open on May 29 and congregations will be held as per the SOPs issued by the government. 

According to the SOPs, people above the age of 50, children and those suffering from the flu, however, will not be allowed to enter mosques whose management has been advised to remove all carpets and lead prayers on the bare ground.

It may be recalled that the provincial government had imposed a ban on congregational prayers on March 26 as a part of the measures imposed at stemming the spreading of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The Information Minister further said that lockdown restrictions would remain in place till May 31 but business activities could be conducted during the specified hours on court directives. 

“The Supreme Court had ordered easing restrictions for Eid, but no new notification was issued. The notification issued by the government is still valid,” he stated.

NGOs join hands for ration distribution in Karachi

Pakistan News & Features Services

Serving Hands Organization and Combined Efforts Organization, headed by Dr Siakander Ali Shaikh and Yasir Hashmi respectively, continued their ongoing project of COVID-19 Eid Package Ration Camps by holding an event at Pir Bukhsh Goth Ghani Abad and surrounding villages. 

The two welfare organizations joined hands in free distribution of Eid dresses for ladies besides food packets. Earlier they had donated free PPE kits, head and foot covers, sanitizers, masks and gloves for doctors, nurses and paramedical staff at various hospitals. 

The Senior Vice President of Serving Hands Organization, Syed Ibne Hassan, remarked on the occasion that helping out needy people was in accordance with preaching of Islam and more efforts should be made for reaching out the suffering community.

China faces daunting task in slashing absolute poverty: Premier Li

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Premier Li Kequiang remarked that the China was determined to prioritize the work of meeting people's essential needs and achieve the country's target in poverty alleviation this year.

He stated that China now faced a daunting task in slashing absolute poverty. Before COVID-19 struck, there were about five million people living below the official poverty line. Because of the disease, some have fallen back into poverty. 

Premier Li Keqiang expressed these views while addressing a press conference after the closing of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on May 28. 

He took questions from Chinese and foreign reporters via video link. 

He disclosed that China will introduce more targeted and effective measures to further reduce corporate operating costs and the country will achieve its development goals for this year, as well as the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. 

“China still reserved policies in fiscal, financial and social security arenas and the country is in a strong position to quickly introduce new measures to keep its economic development on a steady course,” he added.

The Premier stressed that China's economic policies in coping with shocks of the novel coronavirus will focus on keeping jobs and protecting people's livelihoods. 

“The country focus will be on massive supportive policies and 70 percent of the funds from the supportive policies will be used to increase people's income, which can spur consumption and increase market demand,” he explained. 

“China and many other countries are investing into the research and development of vaccines, effective drugs and testing agents, which, when available, should become public goods. China is ready to share those products,” Li Keqiang announced. 

China, he said, will continue to manage any outbreak promptly and control the contagion in a scientific manner, and no cover-up will be allowed adding China's principle and policy toward Taiwan has been consistent, adhering to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus. 

"We are firmly opposed to Taiwan independence. On this basis, we are ready to communicate with any political party, group or individual in Taiwan to promote peaceful development across the Straits and peaceful reunification of the country," he declared.

“The national security legislation for Hong Kong is designed to ensure steady implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ in the special administrative region, as well as upholding its long-term stability and prosperity. It is the country's basic policy and the central government has always stressed the need to fully and faithfully implement the principle, under which Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy,” he explained. 

“The decoupling of China and the United States, two major economies, will do neither side any good, and it is also harmful to the world. The differences, disagreements and even frictions are unavoidable given the two countries' differences in terms of social systems, cultural heritage and historical backgrounds,” the Premier narrated. 

"What's important is how we manage these disagreements and differences," he said, noting that the bilateral relationship has been moving forward in the past decades amid twists and turns. 

He called for international cooperation in offsetting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, and said that China will firmly expand its opening-up to the rest of the world. 

Saying it's impossible for any country to achieve further development with its door closed, Li Keqiang reiterated China's commitment to the opening up policy and the country will introduce more opening-up measures on its own initiative. 

The Premier gave detailed answers to the various queries and also deliberated on China’s trade policies towards US, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Crashed PIA plane’s Cockpit Voice Recorder retrieved

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It was a big sigh of relief for the relatives as well as the investigation team of the May 22 PIA plane crash as the Cockpit Voice Recorder, the most important component that could greatly help in the probe, was finally retrieved by the authorities on May 28.

It took as many as six days after the plane had crashed in Karachi to locate the recorder from the debris, with the assistance of the Airbus investigation team. 

According to PIA spokesman, the Airbus investigation team had resumed its task to salvage the Cockpit Voice Recorder on May 28 and finally it succeeded after removal of big parts of the plane with the help of heavy cranes. The Cockpit Voice Recorder has been handed over to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board. 

The PIA spokesman added that the airline team made all out efforts for the recovery of the Cockpit Voice Recorder, deemed to be one of the most important components that could help greatly in finding causes of the plane crash. 

The French investigation team, having already extended its stay in Pakistan, spent a busy third day while inspecting the crash site. They carried out special inspection of the damaged houses. 

Out of 97 deaths, the bodies of 49 persons have been identified so far and 44 of them were handed over to heirs. 

Meanwhile, the PIA and aviation officials have given initial briefing on the air crash at Karachi to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dubai reopens business with new normal

Pakistan News & Features Services

Dubai’s businesses reopening on May 27, after Eid holidays, may be just another news item but the day became significant because the city adopted a ‘new normal’ with the reopening of cinemas, gyms and educational institutions

Dubai, the regional hub of business, has not yet resumed welcoming back the tourists but that’s also on the cards very soon. The traffic on roads is back and the planes will also be hovering in not too distant future.

The business community in Dubai has the reasons to smile again as the restrictions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) have now been eased to pave way for the revival of economy.

Although social distancing and other safety measures do stay in place for reducing the spread of virus but the relaxation allows a lot of space for people to move around and resume their activities after being locked down for about a couple of months.

Dubai’s return to normalcy will mean a lot to the region. Even though people will be wearing masks and sanitizing their hands frequently besides disinfecting their workplaces, they now have the freedom to enjoy fresh air and carry out their business for longer hours.

Huawei disappointed over Canadian court ruling

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Huawei Technologies Co has expressed disappointment over a Canadian court's ruling over its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, asserting that the company will continue to stand with Meng in her pursuit of justice and freedom.

The company released a statement saying that Huawei was disappointed in the ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. They have repeatedly expressed confidence in Meng's innocence, The China Daily reported on May 28. 

The comments came after the court ruled on May 27 the extradition case against Meng could proceed. 

"We expect Canada's judicial system will ultimately prove Meng's innocence. Meng's lawyers will continue to work tirelessly to see justice is served," the Chinese multinational technology company said. 

According to the reports, Meng is currently detained in Canada. She was arrested at Vancouver International Airport by the Canadian authorities on December 1, 2018 and has been held under house arrest since then.

Australia, New Zealand contemplate reopening borders

Pakistan News & Features Services

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared on May 27 that a draft blueprint on safely starting travel between New Zealand and Australia will be presented to both governments in early June.

She revealed having spoken to her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, on May 26 and there was enthusiasm for travel to resume on both sides. 

“We are working to move on this as quickly as we can. We are both very keen on it across both sides of the ditch. It won’t be too long before we are ready,” Ardern remarked during a press conference. 

Neighbours Australia and New Zealand happen to be among the most popular travel destinations to each other. Reportedly as many as 1.5 million Australians had visited New Zealand 2019. 

The two countries have been discussing the possibility of a travel bubble between them over the past couple of weeks after having slowed the spread of the novel coronavirus in their respective territories. 

The government and airport officials, besides airlines and health specialists have been working on the plan to re-open their borders with each other.

New Zealand becomes coronavirus free

Pakistan News & Features Services

By discharging it last remaining coronavirus (COVID-19) patient from hospital and having seen no new cases, New Zealand has become free from the virus on May 27.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director General of Health, informed media at the COVID-19 press briefing in Auckland that he reckoned it was the first time in months when no patients with the disease were being treated at hospitals. 

“Currently there is nobody in hospital with COVID-19 following the discharge of a person from Middlemore Hospital,” he declared. 

New Zealand’s first case of coronavirus was detected on February 28, according to the Ministry of Health records. 

The country has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic, with just 1,154 confirmed cases and 21 deaths in the three-month period. 

Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has earned worldwide recognition for having taken a hardline approach to the country’s lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of the disease which paid handsome dividends.

Saudi Arabia has two new airports ready

Pakistan News & Features Services

As Saudi Arabia prepared to ease coronavirus containment measures, it has announced the opening of two new airports in the country which takes the domestic destinations up to 13. 

According to reports, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) has confirmed the completion of operational readiness of Al Jouf and Arar airports as the domestic flights were set to resume on May 31. 

The GACA has pointed out that the readiness of the Kingdom’s airports was a part of new measures to gradually lift the suspension of domestic flights to ensure a safe journey for passengers through Saudi airports while taking preventive and precautionary measures. 

The move is being carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and relevant government agencies within airport facilities as the GACA will work in coordination with airports, air carriers and companies operating in the civil aviation sector to meet the demand in the local market. 

It had earlier notified the resumption of domestic flights in all domestic destinations during a two-week phased manner as 64 flights will resume each day in the first phase. 

The first phase will include the operation of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, King Fahad International Airport in Dammam. 

The other airports to resume domestic flights included Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah, Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Al Qassim, Abha International Airport, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Tabuk, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jazan, Hail International Airport, King Saud Airport in Al Bahah and Najran Airport.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh's infection rate doubles

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh on May 27 witnessed a record daily increase in its COVID-19 positivity rates, rising to 32.10%, against the country’s average rate of 17.03% as the health authorities confirmed another 699 new cases of infections with six related deaths.

According to official data, the province’s coronavirus positivity rate on May 21 was at 15.99%, which rose to 23.85 on May 24 and 24.62% on May 26. Various testing laboratories operating in the public and private sectors conducted across the province as many as 2,177 tests for coronavirus during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on May 27, out of which 699 were found positive. 

The guidelines suggest that the World Health Organization (WHO) likes to see countries testing at the level of ten negative tests to one positive, as a general benchmark of a system that's doing enough testing to pick up all cases.

In communities where most coronavirus tests are coming back positive, it's a sign there are many more cases there that haven't been found, the WHO officials had briefed in a press conference about two months back. 

However, local experts in infectious diseases and public health attributed the test trend to relaxed implementation of lockdown and limited working at the government designated COVID-19 testing laboratories and centres. 

Observing reason behind the sudden increase in the rate of new positive cases, Dr Naseem Salahauddin, Head of Infectious Diseases Department at the Indus Hospital, Karachi, said that it was expected after Ramazan taraweeh congregation, shopping in crowds without masks or distancing. 

The doctors and hospitals were under enormous pressure, she said adding that the community of doctors could foresee more problems looming ahead. 

An internationally acclaimed infectious diseases epidemiologist, Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, a federal government personnel, remarked that active contract tracing has gone down and resultantly people with high suspicion of COVID-19 and clear signs and symptoms are self-reporting for testing.
“Active contract tracing activities depleted due to Eid vacations of rapid response team staff, misinformation that the virus is not really a threat and fear of being stigmatized,” he said.

A senior physician Dr Samreena Hashmi, former leader of Pakistan Medical Association, Sindh, reckoned that the overall number of tests has reduced lately as either people only with symptoms were getting tested and no random testing was being done. 

Prof M Rafiq Khanani, President, Infectious Control Society Pakistan, felt that the reasons behind the increase in the positivity rate included relaxation of lockdown, development of SOPs in the absence of infection control experts, reduced hours for grocery and other essential services, which resulted in public crowding. 

“Disinformation in social media presenting COVID-19 as hoax, propaganda that the disease can easily be cured, and lack of confidentiality of infected people’s information also resulted in people avoiding coming to tests until they have serious disease and have already transmitted infections to several others, most whole family,” he said. 

Dr Ashraf Memon, a senior pathologist associated with Kharadar General Hospital, was of the opinion that positivity rate may increase further in the coming two or three weeks. 

“The attitude of people in relaxed lockdown days has not been conducive towards containment of the diseases,” he regretted. 

Dr M Saeed Khan, Incharge COVID-19 testing labs at Dow University of Health Science, pointed out that during the Eid vacations almost all the testing centres had to face the manpower shortage and as such they tested the highly suspected cases only or those presented to hospitals with the disease’s symptoms. 

Since the referral of contract cases for tests from government’s tracking and rapid response personnel to laboratories reduced in recent days, the number of negative cases also reduced, he added, saying if the increase in the rate of COVID-19 positivity rate continues even after three or four days then it would be something more alarming and in line with  the earlier predictions about the disease’s peak. 

In the meantime, Sindh is inching to the overall figure of 25,000 coronavirus positive cases, as of 163,805 tests conducted across the province so far, 24,206 were found positive. The death toll came as 380. 

According to COVID-19 updates shared by the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, there are 14,556 patients under treatment in Sindh, including 12,836 isolated at homes. 

A maximum of 559 new positive cases were reported from Karachi during the last 24 hours, he added, saying remaining positive cases were reported from Ghotki (24), Sukkur (11), Larkana (10), Mirpurkhas (7), Jacobabad (6), Badin (6), Hyderabad (5), Shikarpur (4), Jamshoro (3), Thatta (2) and other districts. 

According to the official data, the district wise breakdown of total reported cases, since February 26, came as Karachi’s six districts (19,322), Sukkur (807), Hyderabad (787), Khairpur (605), Larkana (592), Ghotki (461), Shikarpur (297), Shaheed Benazirabad (191), Jacobabad (177), Kamber Shahdadkot (132), Sanghar (123), Kashmore (75), Tando Mohammad Khan (65), Jamshoro (61), Dadu (52), Thatta (50), Matiari (48), Mirpurkhas (46), Badin (45), Naushehro Feroze (33), Sujawal (32), Tando Allahyar, (27), Tharparkar (11) and Umerkot (11).

Overseas Chinese hail their government policies

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan, Yao Jing, through a video session, extended Eid greeting to all Muslim overseas and the Chinese living in Pakistan besides offering condolences on PIA plane crash.

The participants included the top officials of the Rawalpindi Chinese Association, the Gilgit-Baltistan Chinese Association, the Pakistan Chinese Youth Overseas Chinese Association and the Pakistan Overseas Chinese Association. Ambassador Yao Jing introduced the relevant situation of China-Pakistan anti-epidemic cooperation. 

He pointed out that in the early stage of China’s epidemic prevention and control, Pakistan had actively donated anti-epidemic materials to China. 

“After the outbreak epidemic in Pakistan, China donated a large volume of anti-epidemic materials to Pakistan and sent a number of anti-epidemic medical expert groups to assist Pakistan in anti-epidemic drive,” he narrated. 

“The two countries have cooperated closely to fight against the epidemic and fully demonstrated that the friendship between China and Pakistan is unbreakable. In order to better serve the overseas Chinese in Pakistan, the Chinese Embassy has taken a number of measures,” the Ambassador said. 

“Firstly the Pakistani government was provided with testing reagents, masks, protective clothing and other anti-epidemic materials. Secondly close contacts and communication with the various overseas Chinese delegations were maintained. Thirdly multiple online health consultations took place from China. Then the overseas Chinese were provided with a health package and caring package besides coordination with the Bading Point Hospital to treat any confirmed overseas Chinese in a timely manner and actively develop consuls,” he explained.

The overseas Chinese leaders spoke one after another, expressing their profound gratitude to the Chinese government and embassy in Pakistan for their care, care and help for the vast number of overseas Chinese in Pakistan. 

The Uighur national leaders, Nasir Khan and Kyoumu, said that under the leadership and command of President Xi Jinping, China has achieved a major victory in the new crown epidemic prevention and control campaign and actively carried out international anti-epidemic cooperation making the Uighur and overseas Chinese extremely proud. 

Since the outbreak, the embassy in Pakistan has provided Uighur and overseas Chinese with anti-epidemic materials such as medicines, masks, and daily life materials including rice, flour and cooking oil to ease the living difficulties of the overseas Chinese and make the Uighur overseas Chinese feel the warmth and care from their home country. 

The overseas Chinese leaders also expressed their support for the 13th National People's Congress's review of the ‘Decision of the National People's Congress on Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanism of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to Maintain National Security’ and believed that the decision (draft) was necessary for legislative actions to safeguard national sovereignty and implement ‘one country, two systems are of great significance to safeguard Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. 

They reckoned that Hong Kong was a special administrative region of China and its affairs were China's internal affairs. 

The overseas Chinese compatriots in Pakistan firmly supported the Chinese government in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, and resolutely opposed foreign forces interfering in the affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

China plays down border tension with India

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China and India have the ability to properly resolve the relevant issues through dialogue and consultations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, asserted on May 27. 

He was responding to a question at a regular press briefing in Beijing when asked to comment on an Indian statement that China sent troops to the China-India border. 

“The situation in the region is generally stable and controllable,” he remarked. 

Playing down the hype created by the Indian and as well as the international media regarding tension on the border of the two neighbouring countries, Zhao Lijian added that both the parties have the ability to properly resolve relevant issues through dialogue and consultation.

Development work on Suki Kinari hydropower project in full swing

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The development work on 874 MW Suki Kinari hydropower project is in full swing, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Chairman, CPEC Authority, Lt Gen (rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted on May 27.

He disclosed that 19.5 percent work on the project has been completed, adding that the work remained unaffected by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The hydropower projects are being built at Kunhar River in the province of Khyber Pakthtunkhwa with an investment of $ 1.963 billion under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

He added that the project has so far created 4,250 job opportunities and upon completion, it would help in reducing the cost of electricity. It’s being expected to produce electricity in a couple of years time.

“Bringing cost of electricity down is top priority of the government,” he maintained. 

It is also one of Pakistan’s largest private sector power development projects and is being constructed as part of the CPEC’s early harvest projects. 

The construction of the project was initiated in 2017, as it is being developed on the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model which implies that the Chinese would operate it for 30 years after which it would be transferred to the KP government. 

Once completed, the project would add 874 megawatts to the national grid and all four units would become fully operational by 2022. The completion of this hydropower plant will play an important role in promoting Pakistan’s industrial development and economic recovery.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cockpit voice recorder of crashed PIA plane yet to be recovered

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The cockpit voice recorder of the crashed PIA plane has yet not been recovered from the debris scattered on narrow lanes of the crash site located in the Karachi’s densely populated area of Model Colony in the close proximity of airport. 

The black box of the plane, which crashed on May 22, has however been retrieved and sent to the Airbus headquarters in France for decoding, the aviation sources disclosed. 

A spokesman of the national carrier has appealed to the people that if they found any part of the crashed plane they should handover the same to the concerned authorities. 

The 11-member Airbus investigating team, having reached Karachi, will resume their investigation by visiting the crash site on May 27. 

The French team, on May 26, inspected the damaged houses, debris and the runway which the captain of the ill-fated plane, Sajjad Gul, reportedly used for an abortive landing.

The team checked the run and apron from different angles. They asked questions like how many times the plane was grounded in a year and if repair on plane was done.

They also collected information about how many times the landing gear repair was carried out besides its maintenance on technical ground. 

They sought the names of the engineers having performed the repair work. The French team was provided with the one year performance record of the plane. 

The unfortunate plane crash claimed all but two fortunate passengers who survived miraculously. So far out of 97 dead, the identity of 44 passengers has been established. Squadron Leader Zain-ul-Arif Khan’s body was among those identified through DNA. 

Meanwhile, the Interior Minister, Ejaz Shah, visited the residence of captain of the PIA crashed plane, Sajjad Gul, and expressed condolence with his father. “Sajjaid Gul tried his best till the end but unfortunately nature had other ideas,” he noted. The father of the deceased pilot has appealed to refrain from such statement that can hurt family feelings. 

The Sindh Governor, Imran Ismail, visited Civil Hospital Karachi and enquired the welfare of the injured persons. He assured that the government will carry out repair of the damaged houses.