Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Further rise in fatalities, infection

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed an increase of 10% of in its daily COVID-19 infection rate on June 30, when authorities in the government confirmed detection of 2,655 new cases, out of 9,435 samples, with 34 more related deaths during the last 24 hours. The daily infection rate was 18.8% on June 29, against 24% of June 28.

According to data provided by the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on coronavirus status, of the total cases confirmed during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 30, 686 (26%) were from Karachi, while remaining 1,969 were reported from the interior districts of Sindh. 

However, the district wise breakdown of new cases, included in the Chief Minister’s statement, did not account for all the cases and was silent about 1,400 new cases. 

After Karachi’s 686 new infections, Hyderabad registered 95 new cases, followed by Ghotki (76), Sukkur (74), Jamshoro (45), Mirpurkhas (34), Khairpur (34), Tando Allahyar (32), Jacobabad (28), Sanghar (23), Shaheed Benazirabad (23), Larkana (22), Shikarpur (19), Kambar Shadadkot (19), Dadu (13), Umerkot (12), Badin (9), Naushero Ferroze (9), Sujawal (6), Tando Mohammad Khan (5), Thatta (4), Kashmore (1), Kandhkot (1) and Matiari (1). 

Keen observers, who were already complaining about inconsistent daily testing of new samples, remarked that more the laboratories tested the more they found positive cases, which confirmed the apprehension that COVID-19 managers in the province were yet to give a direction to their testing activities, while there was no respite from the disease and the growing number of relevant deaths. 

Apart from the Chief Minister’s statement, which maintained the total COVID-19 deaths across the province as 1,377, a Sindh health department website showed the number of deaths as 1,397 on June 30.

However, neither the Chief Minister’s statement nor the Sindh health department’s website gave any details of deceased persons in terms of district they belonged to or the hospitals where they lost their lives.

Among the total deceased patients, there were 12 children of age up to nine years and 373 elders of 70 years and above also, as of June 30, it was learnt.

An official report revealed that Liaquat National Hospial, Hashmanis Hospital and South City Hospital at Karachi and one testing centre each at Larkana and Sukkur did not perform any single test during the last 24 hours.

On June 30, the overall number of infections in the districts of Sindh came as: Karachi (66,960), Hyderabad (2,691), Sukkur (2,396), Ghotki (2,051), Khairpur (1,749), Larkana (1,577), Shikarpur (738), Shaheed Benazirabad (698), Jamshoro (666), Mirpurkhas (549), Jacobabad (505), Sanghar (504), Kashmore (435), Dadu (424), Kambar Shadadkot (365), Naushero Feroze (336), Badin (290), Thatta (238), Tharparkar (202), Sujawal (195), Tando Allahyar (154), Matiari (145), Tando Mohammad Khan (144) and Umerkot (140).

 As per the official report, a maximum of 269 COVID-19 patients were receiving treatment at DUHS Hospital, followed by Civil Hospital Karachi (154), Karachi Central Prison (153), Aga Khan University Hospital (150), Ziauddin Hospital North Nazimabad (136), Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (133), Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (109) and other hospitals and centres.

It was further learnt that as many as 87 beds were vacant in the intensive care units of various COVID-19 hospitals across the province on June 30, in addition to 750 high dependency beds and 959 isolation beds.

Shanghai Electric interested in acquiring 66.4% share in K-Electric

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

K-Electric (KE) may have been under fire lately at home for its indifferent services to the large base of its customers in Karachi but Shanghai Electric Power Company Limited (SEP) have showed renewed interested in acquiring its major shares. 

The KE authorities have submitted a letter to the Pakistan Stock Exchange Limited (PSX), whose copy was seen by PNFS, informing them about the expression of interest in their entity by SEP. Arif Habib Limited are the managers to the offer of the acquirer.

“In accordance with Section 96 of Securities Act, 2015 and Clause 5.6.1 (a) we hereby convey the following information: KE has received fresh Public Announcement of Intention from Shanghai Electric Power Company Limited to acquire upto 66.40% voting shares of KE. The PSX is requested to make the above information immediately available to the KE shareholders,” the KE official wrote to the PSX in a letter dated June 30, 2020, attaching a copy of Public Announcement of Intention from SEP. 

According to the letter, SEP intends to acquire 18,335,542,678 ordinary shares of KE which is equivalent to 66.40% of the KE’s total issued share capital. 

It may be recalled that the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), on March 30, had granted 90-day extension to SEP to make a public announcement of offer to acquire 66.40% percent shares of KE.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Highest single-day fatalities in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Amidst reports that Pakistan’s daily COVID-19 infections rate was falling, Sindh registered 1,539 new cases on June 29 when the government authorities confirmed yet another all days’ highest 74 fatalities due to the virus in the province, bringing the death tally to 1,343. 

Earlier, the health authorities had confirmed all days’ highest 49 deaths in Sindh, including 44 at Karachi, on June 19. Sindh witnessed an average of 35 COVID-19 deaths daily during the week ending on June 29. 

In his daily statement on coronavirus situation, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, among other details shared the number of latest COVID-19 deaths on June 29, while there was no additional information about the districts which the deceased patients belonged to or their respective age and hospitals where they were taking the treatment. 

Contrary to the Chief Minister's statement, a federal government organized dashboard showed that 55 people died of COVID-19 on June 29 and 45 on June 28 in Sindh, which was different to the figures released by the provincial government. 

On the other hand, a website managed by the Sindh health department showed the overall COVID-19 death toll as 1,378, while the total infections remained 82,516 in Sindh. 

Of the 1,539 cases confirmed during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 29, 689 (45%) were registered at Karachi, while remaining 850 (55%) were reported from the interior districts of Sindh, which passed the impression that number of testing had increased in the districts other than those of Karachi division. 

Hyderabad reported 93 new infections, followed by Ghotki (76), Sukkur (74), Mirpurkhas (34), Tando Allahyar (32), Jacobabad (28), Sanghar (23), Shaheed Benazirabad (23), Larkana (22), Kambar Shadakot (19), Shikarpur (19), Dadu (13), Umerkot (12), Badin (9), Naushero Feroze (9), Sujawal (6), Tando Mohammad Khan (5), Thatta (4), Kashmore (2), Kandhkot (1) and Matiari (1). 

The daily infection rate came as 18.8%, against 24% of June 28, with an overall case fatality rate of 1.7%. 

According to a report, the number of daily COVID-19 cases has decreased from 6,604, recorded on June 19, to 3,557, recorded on June 28, across the country, which indicated a reduction of 43% in 10 days.

Attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange; China condemns

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China has condemned the terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the southern port city of Karachi on June 29. 

“We firmly oppose any form of terrorism and fully support Pakistan’s efforts in combating terrorism and upholding national security and stability,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, stated during the regular press briefing in Beijing when asked about China's response on the terrorist attack in Karachi. 

He also extended condolences and sympathies with families of those people and security forces personals having sacrificed their lives or sustained injuries during the course of encounter with terrorists. “We condemn all forms of terrorist attacks and we also mourn the victims of this incident,” the Chinese official observed. 

According to information gathered by PNFS, as many as four terrorists stormed the sprawling building of the PSX located at the country's economic hub in Karachi. 

Before the terrorists could enter inside the building, the security forces, including private security guards, shot down all the outlaws at the security check-post. The terrorists could be seen armed with weapons that included AK-47s, hand grenades and rocket launchers. They were also found to be carrying food and water. 

The security officials claimed that the terrorists’ modus operandi appeared to be similar to the one witnessed during the attack at the Chinese Consulate in Karachi a few years ago. 

The militants surfaced from the Railway Ground parking area and opened fire outside the PSX ground. They made their way to the main gate of the building and stormed it after trading fire with the security guards. 

They lobbed hand grenades and opened fire initially at the compound entrance to force their way into the main building but one of them was killed immediately which didn’t allow them to carry out their mission of causing further damage. 

The police and Rangers' officials arrived at the scene and killed all the four terrorists near the entrance gates, Sindh Rangers said, adding that the militants could not enter the trading hall, adding that trading had not been stopped. 

The firing by militants, however, caused panic among the people in the building. The PSEX building as well as the surrounding areas had been sealed and people were evacuated from the back door.

China-made passenger planes delivered

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Three major Chinese airlines took delivery of their first ARJ21s, China's first domestically developed regional jet on June 28.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), the jet's developer which is based in Shanghai, handed over three ARJ21s to Air China, China Eastern and China Southern at its assembly line near Pudong International Airport.

It is the first time the regional jet, which has a range of up to 3,700 kilometers, has entered the fleets of major international carriers, the COMAC announced. 

The three ARJ21s flew to Capital International Airport in Beijing, Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai and Baiyun International Airport in Guanghzou, after a delivery ceremony amid a downfall in the morning on June 28. 

“The COMAC plans to deliver another two ARJ21s to each of the three major carriers by the end of 2020. The nine jets are scheduled to start their commercial operations with the carriers by December,” Zhang Xiaoguang, marketing and sales department director of the COMAC, added. 

Air China, China Eastern and China Southern purchased 35 ARJ21s each from the COMAC in August 2019. The 105 jets will be delivered to the carriers between 2020 and 2024.

The total orders for the ARJ21 have been about 600 from more than 20 customers from both home and abroad, according to the COMAC. 

The delivery on June 28 was made on the same day the first ARJ21 began commercial operation with its first operator, Chengdu Airlines, exactly four years ago. 

Since then, the COMAC has delivered 32 ARJ21s to Chengdu Airlines, Jiangxi Air, Urumqi Air and Genghis Khan Airlines. 

The planes link 55 cities and have transported more than 890,000 passengers safely. It began its first regular international duties between northeast China and east Russia with Chengdu Airlines in October last year. 

"The COMAC has made full preparation for flying, crew and maintenance for the deliveries to the three major carriers. More than 700 staff, including pilots and crew members, has been trained," Zhang shared. 

All the first batch of three ARJ21s has the 90-seat all-economy configuration. The seats are wider and have larger spaces between each other, according to the COMAC. The three carriers will carry out a series of test flights before launching commercial operations.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Inconsistent testing in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed a rise of eight percent in its daily COVID-19 infection rate on June 28 when the authorities in the government confirmed 2,179 new cases during the last 24 hours, with 26 new related deaths, pushing the overall fatalities to 1,269 for the province.

The daily infection rate remained 16% on June 27. Earlier, the rate was registered 21% on June 18, which dropped to 15% on June 22 before another rise up to 24% on June 23 and then went down to 19% on June 24. 

Keen observers attributed the highs and lows to the health authorities’ inconsistency in daily testing activities. 

There has been a need to significantly step up the COVID-19 testing to achieve a stable data leading to determination of districts and areas, turning safe from the virus point of view. 

The official data suggested that the designated laboratories across the Sindh conducted an average of 7,883 tests every day during the period from June 22 to 27, against a cumulative capacity of testing 13,150 samples daily. 

In the meantime, it was learnt that the authorities concerned have reduced the sanctioned daily testing capacity of a few laboratories. As such, the maximum combined testing capacity of 21 laboratories stood at 9,150, against 13,150 of the preceding week.

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on coronavirus status, disclosed that 26 people lost their lives to the disease during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 28 across the province. 

However, the health department failed to give any details regarding the deaths, which didn’t make it possible to know the name of cities and hospitals where the patients lost their lives and what were their ages. 

Such details were released last time by the Sindh Health department on June 22, according to which 921 COVID-19 patients died at Karachi, followed by Hyderabad (40), Larkana (22), Sukkur (17), Shikarpur (11) and other districts. 

According to the Sindh health department’s website, Sindh in all registered 80,486 coronavirus infections, out of which 1,311 expired till the evening of June 28.

As per a country status report, 38 patients who lost their lives on June 27 belonged to Karachi (32), Hyderabad (2), Larkana (1), Naushero Feroze (1), Sujawal (1) and Sukkur (1). Of the deceased persons, 30 died off ventilators, including 16 who died at home. 

According to the Chief Minister’s statement, Karachi reported the maximum 1,406 new cases on June 28, followed by Sukkur (86), Hyderabad (54), Ghotki (40), Khairpur (38), Jamshoro (26), Mirpurkhas (22), Thatta (19), Larkana (17), Umerkot (8), Dadu (7), Tando Allahyar (3), Badin (3), Kambar Shadadkot (3), and Jacobabad (1). 

The statement further said that as many as 34,654 COVID-19 patients were under treatment across the province, out of which 88 were in isolation centres, while 1,456 including 655 critically sick were at various hospitals, in addition to 33,110 patients kept in home-isolation. 

According to official sources, 23 intensive care beds were vacant at the various hospitals, in addition to 446 high dependency beds, at Karachi on June 28. 

Another source added that, in Sindh, 21 healthcare providers lost their lives due to COVID-19 so far, 802 recovered from the diseases, 35 were in stable condition in different hospitals, while 513 were kept in isolation at homes or other places.

‘Made in Pakistan’ ventilators ready

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan has successfully made ventilators, the most demanded equipment for COVID-19 pandemic treatment. 

“Al-Hamadullah, the first consignment of made in Pakistan ventilators would be handed over to NDMA this week,” the Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, tweeted on June 28. 

Congratulating, the NRTC on this indigenously manufacturing ventilators as per EU standard, the Federal Minister disclosed that three more designs were also in final stage and would soon be put on production line.

“After this achievement, Pakistan is now placed among the distinguished community of nation's countries that are capable of making complicated medical equipments,” he reckoned.

Student’s cucumber research may benefit farmers

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A Pakistani student, Rahat Sharif, 28, has successfully conducted research in China boosting cucumber production that Pakistani farmers can also benefit to enhance yield production thus improving the income.

“Our lab conducts research of developing cucumber resistance against powdery mildew. The applied research has not only improved the production of cucumber but also the livelihood of local farmers,” Rahat Sharif, a Pakistani student at the China's Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University (NWAFU) told China Economic Net.

.“Welcome Chinese biotech companies to boost Pakistan’s cucumber production,” Rahat Sharif remarked. 

Hailing from Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Rahat has recently completed his MSc degree from NWAFU. 

“I started my research in 2017 in the lab of vegetable ecophysiology and biotechnology. We do research on cucumber’s production, quality and response to different environmental stresses. My research focused particularly on the role of HD-ZIP gene family in cucumber’s growth and development under various abiotic and biotic stresses,” he explained. 

“Our lab has developed several cucumber varieties and they were provided to local farmers in Shaanxi province, which had successfully lifted some farmers out of poverty,” he said. 

Rahat believed that his research will also help Pakistani farmers increase the production of cucumber and get rid of poverty.

BOI launches three portals for investors

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Board of Investment (BOI) has launched three online portals for the benefit of investors. These digitize portals happen to be Electronic Joint Venture (EJV), Branch Liaison Management Information System (BLMIS) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

These digitize portals services will be greatly of benefit and assistance to the investors, a spokesman of the BOI remarked. 

The three portals were launched by the BOI Chairman, Atif Riaz Bokhari, during an online event which was attended by the BOI Secretary Omer Rasul, senior officers and other stakeholders including representatives from the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID), Pakistan Business Council (PBC), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), National Technology Council (NTC) and Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). 

Atif Bokhari, a former banker, highlighted that the BOI was one of the leading organisation in the federal government, which had been effectively introducing technology-driven innovative solutions in terms of service delivery, with the ultimate objectives of bringing transparency, improving ease of doing business and facilitating Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan. 

The BOI chairman also acknowledged the role of all stakeholders in providing support to BOI for the development of the online modules.

Pakistan ready to reopen Kartarpur corridor

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan has expressed its readiness to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for Sikh pilgrims on June 29.

"As places of worship open up across the world, Pakistan prepares to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims,” the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmud Qureshi, announced in a twitter message. 

‘Conveying to the Indian side our readiness to reopen the corridor on 29 June 2020,” he said, adding that this will be the occasion to mark the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.

Meeting challenges of leaving a legacy

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

“Pakistan is no exception where the government leadership is out to justify their policies, programmes and personal conduct, while the opposition engages in pointing out the weaknesses and flawed policies of those in power. The phenomenon is the same in all continents but with varying degrees and in different forms. COVID-19 is telling it all in different ways.”

This was remarked by Senator Nisar Memon, a former federal minister for Information and Broadcasting, during an interview with PNFS.

“The citizens, who send legislators to manage country by electing them, are not to be found at the core of war of words. The sitting government desires to retain all the power of decision making while the opposition continues eyeing them to replace them to gain the same power. Other than that, most of the leadership hardly has any motivation to leave behind the legacy that lives on. Therefore the elements for legacy to live on are missing,” he opined.

“Legacy is what lives on. Some examples of outstanding achievements that live on are like the creation of countries such as Pakistan, feat of art like Picasso, architecture like Pyramids, cities like Moen Jo Daro, security wall like Great Wall of China, scientific discoveries such as Newton’s law of gravity, and the great Islamic civilization. They remind us of grandeur and scientific development and natural disasters which buried them to be excavated later,” he explained.

“Behind each of these achievements was the leadership, which by sheer dint of their characters achieved them. Leadership with strong moral character, knowledge, power over people by force or strength of honesty, sincerity, genuinely humble, truthful, open and transparent personal life, ability to command respect and trust for people to obey, good heart with no ego and arrogance. Humility is visible in walk and the talk of the leadership,” Senator Nisar Memon reckoned.

“The leader must be consistent in his life. Just see the life of our beloved Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was an embodiment of strength of character with patience and perseverance in his cause to achieve a nation for Muslims after a political struggle of about half a century. Nelson Mandela is unparalleled not only in his perseverance by living in small prison room in Robin Island for quarter century and after release did not talk of revenge but built a nation of oppressed and oppressors free from apartheid,” he recalled.

“History tells us that when the leadership gets the divine guidance with the Holy Quran, a complete code of living and ethics, like that of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it brings the civilization that lives on eternally. People, particularly the Muslim leadership, should be very careful in taking the name of such a leader and not only know what he said and where he said but be able to practice before qualifying to give sermons on Islam and Islamic teaching. The Turkish and Iranian Presidents are good contemporary examples of the Muslim world to follow,” he pointed out.

“A lesson for any leadership wishing to succeed is to possess a character with no contradictions, conduct of practicing truth which is visible and does not need to be justified, earn admiration of citizens and not of hypocrites, be grateful to Almighty for the chance He gave to serve and not to those who used their power and money to put one in position of responsibility, select a team and support them to swim together, promote ideas, build positively on ones merit of character and not on weaknesses of others,” the former federal minister added.

“How can the legacy of Pakistan leadership live on? Even if getting to power some principles are compromised, but once in power focus on delivering was what promised to electorate. Espouse sovereignty principles by self-reliance rather than foreign aid and loans, remember nothing is free and has to be returned by the coming generation,” he cautioned.

“In the country, strengthen state institutions and not the party or leadership personality. The country needs genuine democracy and dialogue and no monologue. Media freedom is a must in democratic dispensation therefore decontrol it and let it give space to all. Hounding opponents with state institutions has never helped. The way forward is to have private think tanks researching on sovereignty subjects to guide and unite nation for its security,” he advised.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Coronavirus Update: 1,949 new cases in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh, after five days of reduced COVID-19 testing of samples, witnessed a big stride in the activities on June 27 when authorities in the government declared detection of 1,949 (16%) new positive cases out of 11,901 tests, with new 38 related deaths, taking the number of infections to 78,267 and fatality to 1,243 in the province. 

The data revealed that Sindh’s new infection rate has been swinging for over a week. On June 18, it was 21%, which started dipping on June 20 and was recorded at 15% on June 22. It increased to 24% on June 23 and then went down to 19% on June 24 and 16% on June 27. 

In the meantime, keen observers expressed their concerns over the reported reduced field activity, including that at the COVID-19 testing laboratories, while the provincial health department resorted to keeping silent. 

Against their cumulative capacity of testing 13,150 samples, the 20 designated laboratories across the province performed 9,841 tests on June 22, 6,597 on June 23, 7,400 on June 24, 6,458 on June 25 and 5,103 on June 26. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine COVID-19 situation statement, informed that as many as 426,149 tests have been conducted by the laboratories during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 27, out of which 78,267 (18.36%) were declared positive for the virus. 

“There are at present 33,580 active coronavirus cases, while number of those recovered is 43,444. As many as 1,375 are hospitalized, including 696 in critical conditions,” he disclosed. 

He further said that another 38 COVID-19 patients had lost their lives across the province. However, his statement did not include the details of cities which endured the deaths of patients while the provincial health department officers also failed to provide the coronavirus data and summary, including details of deaths, to media professionals. 

In the meantime, an official report mentioned that 19 laboratories performed 9,831 tests, during the last 24 hours, against their collective capacity of doing 9,150 tests every day. The report gave to understand that the testing capacity of different laboratories have been revised lately. 

According to the Chief Minister’s statement, issued on June 27, Karachi reported the maximum number of new cases (1,139), followed by Hyderabad (99), Ghotki (93), Khairpur (68), Sukkur (54), Shikarpur (46), Shaheed Benazirabad (45), Sanghar (32), Mirpurkhas (27), Larkana (25), Jamshoro (17), Naushero Feroze (16), Dadu (15), Badin (12), Kashmore (9), Umerkot (7), Sujawal (6), Tando Allahyar (7), Jacobabad (3), Tando Mohammad Khan (2) and Matiari (2).

It was learnt that a total 24 intensive care beds were unoccupied at different COVID-19 care facilities in Karachi, including 10 beds housed at the Karachi Expo Centre field health facility.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Balochistan to promote eco-tourism

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Balochistan government has decided to develop eco-tourism to attract maximum number of both international and domestic tourists. 

The provincial government in this regard was reported to be working on three pronged strategy, develop infrastructure on its coastal belt, thus creating maximum job opportunities and generating more revenue for the provincial exchequer. 

An official of the provincial government has said that under a strategy, the government has to identify the suitable tourist spots along the coastal belt of Balochistan for setting up tourist resorts. A holistic strategy was planned to provide sound infrastructure support system and clean drinking water.

Coronavirus Update: Karachi reports 91% of Sindh new cases

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh’s overall COVID-19 fatality tally surpassed 1,200 on June 26 when authorities in the government confirmed deaths of another 27 patients during the last 24 hours, with detection of 1,150 new infections across Sindh, including 1,050 at Karachi.

On June 26, Karachi reported 91% of the total Sindh cases, the highest proportion of new cases registered in the megapolis in recent days. The proportion of new cases recorded in the city on June 22 was 80% of the total Sindh cases, which had reduced to 45% on June 25. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on COVID-19 situation in the province, revealed that as many as 5,103 samples were tested during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 26 out of which 1150 were found positive for COVID-19. Thus the daily infection case rate came as 23%. 

He further said that deaths of another 27 patients due to coronavirus had pushed the death toll to 1,205. However, the statement did not provide any district-wise details of the deceased people. 

“A total 41992 patients have recovered from the disease, while 3,121 were under treatment, including 671 in the critical condition,” he mentioned. 

According to the statement, Karachi reported 1,050 new cases, including 322 recorded in District East, 300 in South, 143 in West, 111 in Central, 88 in Malir and 86 new cases in Korangi district. The other district having registered new cases during the last 24 hours included Hyderabad (22), Jamhsoro (7), Ghotki (7), Dadu (4), Larkana (3), Sukkur (3), Umerkot (2), Sanghar (2) and Shaheed Benazirabad (1).

India’s former first lady recovers from COVID-19 at 93

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Vimala Sharma, the wife of former President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, has successfully fought against deadly Coronavirus pandemic at the age of 93.

She was discharged from the AIIMS Trauma Centre in New Delhi on evening of June 25, two and a half weeks after she had tested positive for COVID-19, the Indian media reported. The 93-year-old is among the oldest to have recovered from the virus in the world. 

According to family sources, her oxygen levels had started dipping on June 5 after which she was tested, and her reports came positive on June 6. 

“To our horror, her report was positive and we immediately rushed her to AIIMS. It came as a shock as she doesn’t go out of the house at all. The first four days, her condition did deteriorate a bit. I know she is 93 but losing her to a virus would have been the worst,” her son Ashutosh Dayal Sharma told The Indian Express. 

While admitted for almost 18 days, she was not put on ventilator support. Her family didn’t lost hope and spoke to her twice during her entire stay. A couple of weeks after the admission, she was tested again and her reports came out negative.

The doctors at AIIMS said that, apart from antibiotics, she was on a high flow nasal cannula, a technique through which a high amount of oxygen can be delivered.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Coronavirus Update: No respite as 17 more die in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As many as 84 beds in the COVID-19 intensive care units (ICU) of hospitals across Sindh were vacant on June 25 when authorities in the government registered another 1,098 new cases, with 17 more deaths, pushing the tally of patients dying of the lethal virus diseases to 1,178. 

According to an official report, a maximum of 25 COVID-19 ICU beds were vacant in Karachi hospitals, followed by Hyderabad (18), Shaheed Benazirabad (8), Sukkur (16) and Larkana (17). The number of unoccupied high dependency beds was 696 including 414 at Karachi.

The statement on COVID-19 situation in Sindh, issued from the Chief Minister’s House, revealed that 17% of the total 6,458 samples tested were found positive at various laboratories of the province during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 25. However, the statement did not disclose all the districts where the new infections were registered. 

It gave a district-wise breakdown of about 600 cases, without revealing the status of the diseases in districts like Jacobabad, Khairpur, Kambar Shahdadkot, Shaheed Benazirabad, Naushero Feroze and Tharparkar, many of which have been reporting new cases in significant number. 

The CM House statement also did not include any district-wise details of new COVID-19 deaths. In the statement, which was the only source of information about COVID-19 for media on June 25, Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, said that said that 6,458 samples were tested and 1,098 positive cases were detected, taking the tally of total infection to 75,168 for the province.

According to the statement, Karachi reported the maximum of 494 new cases, including Karachi South (208), East (141), Central 48, Malir (44), Korangi (32) and West (21).

The other districts which reported the cases, according to the statement, were Hyderabad (34), Ghotki (33), Sukkur (15), Shikarpur (8), Sanghar (6), Umerkot (5), Dadu (5), Larkana (4), Mirpurkhas (4), Jamshoro (2), Badin (2), Thatta (1) and Sujawal (1). 

The Chief Minister urged the people of the province to be vigilant and responsive to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to COVID-19. 

It was further said that 33,131 infected people were still receiving treatment, including 31,665 at homes, 1,388 at hospitals and 78 at isolation centres. “As many as 641 patients were in critical condition, including 99 those utilizing ventilators.” 

An official report issued on June 20 revealed that the South district of Karachi, which reported the maximum infection in Karachi on June 25, had registered in all 6,960 COVID-19 cases, while enduring 44 deaths. Its overall infection rate came as 326 per 100,000 people, while the case fatality rate stood at 3.5%. 

In the meantime, the website of the Sindh health department, updated at 7.52 pm on June 25, mentioned the Sindh death toll as 1,202, while the department did not issue daily COVID-19 summary to media for the third day running. The health department’s last summary was issued on June 22.

CPEC creates jobs for Thari women

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a torch bearer of the visionary Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has not only accelerated economic activities across Pakistan but also created awareness among the rural women folk. 

Prior to the launch of CPEC projects, the women folks in rural Sindh were used to earn their livelihood by making traditional dresses with hand-made embroidery, contributing with family in sheep and cow farms or spending time either with their children or family.

But now the ladies, living in Tharparkar, also known as Thari women, also have the option to earn money from non-traditional sources thus meeting the challenges of present era of price spiral. 

In this regard, the Thari women have been given training to drive heavy trucks, used for transportation of materials for the CPEC projects. 

The management of Block II project under the CPEC in Sindh, in order to encourage them, has employed local women of Tharparkar desert for truck driving job. These women are very skillfully performing their responsibilities to the satisfaction of their employers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Infection rate swings

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed ups and downs in its daily COVID-19 infection rates during the week, as authorities in the government confirmed detection of another 1,414 positive cases out of 7,400 samples during the last 24 hours ending on the morning of June 24 with new 39 related deaths, taking the tally of total infection to 74,070 and death to 1,161 for the province.

On June 18, Sindh’s new infection rate was 21%, which started dipping on June 20 and was recorded at 15% on June 22. It increased to 24% on June 23 and then went down to 19% on June 24. 

While the health department remained silent on the subject, some observers noted that the COVID-19 consultants to the department yet need to device a foolproof style of sampling and testing, which could help understand the trend of the lethal virus’s onslaught across the province. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily COVID-19 statement, informed that 32,722 infected people were receiving the treatment at homes (31,184 cases), isolation centres (81) and hospitals (1,457). He further stated that 733 patients were in critical condition, urging people to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures. 

The details of people expiring of COVID lately were delivered neither by the Chief Minister nor by health department’s officers. 

According to breakdown of Karachi’s new infection, as stated by the Chief Minister, Karachi East district reported the maximum of 185 cases during the last 24 hours, followed by South (184), Korangi (97), Malir 70), Central (68) and West (40). 

An official report issued on June 20 had revealed that the eastern district of Karachi was housing 2,356 active cases, while enduring 147 deaths. Its overall infection rate came as 69.5 per 100,000 people, while the case fatality rate stood at 3.6. 

Karachi reported the maximum number of 644 cases during the last 24 hours, followed by Hyderabad (74), Mirpurkhas (33), Sukkur (30), Ghotki (27), Shaheed Benazirabad (25), Larkana (18), Thatta (9), Shikarpur (9), Badin (8), Sanghar (8), Khairpur (7), Naushero Feroze (6), Jamshoro (6), Dadu (6), Sujawal (3), Jacobabad (3), Tando Allahyar (01) and Tando Mohammad Khan (1), according to the Sindh Chief Minister’s statement. 

In the meantime, there were 27 beds vacant in the intensive care units of various Karachi hospitals including Dow University Hospital, JPMC, Lyari General Hospital, NICH, Dr Ziauddin hospital, Clifton, and Sessi Kidney Centre and Landhi. 

Commenting over some reports related to second viral attack on patients having recovered from COVID-19 in the country, senior microbiologist, Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, reckoned that the reported issue needed more comprehensive investigation before drawing any conclusion. It had been reported that a case of coronavirus reinfection was recorded at a hospital in Lahore. 

“The re-infected patient, who initially had contracted the disease about three months back and also got recovered, is exhibiting more severe symptoms now in comparison to the symptoms at the time of the first diagnosis, suggesting the existence of more than one strain of SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 disease,” according to a doctor. 

Reportedly, a Karachi based hospital has also readmitted patients having recovered from COVID-19. 

Prof Shahana Urooj Kazmi opined that the reinfection could also be antibody mediated enhanced infection like in dengue or may be a different strain of the same virus. “May be the strain specific antibody was not effective or the person did not develop neutralizing antibodies,” she opined.

Plasma therapy begins in Nawabshah

By Rashid Zia Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh government has started the facility of treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) affected patients through plasma therapy at Nawabshah, it was disclosed by the Commissioner of Shaheed Benazirabad Division, Syed Mohsin Ali Shah, on June 24.

He revealed that a team headed by the Chairman of the National Institute of Blood Diseases Karachi, Dr Tahir Shamsi, will be working in collaboration with the Peoples Medical University Hospital to treat the COVID-19 affected patients through plasma therapy. 

Dr Tahir Shamsi, who was also present on the occasion, expressed the confidence that score of lives of the COVID-19 affected patients could be saved by plasma therapy. 

Speaking at the inauguration at Regional Blood Center, the Commissioner informed that the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority had donated the plasma collecting machine. 

He described it as an excellent initiative of the provincial government which, he hoped, would help recover the COVID-19 affected patients of Shaheed Benazirabad Division. 

He declared that Abbas Ali Arain of Bhiria Road town, who has completely recovered from coronavirus, was the first person to donate plasma. He recognized and praised him for donating plasma. 

Commissioner Mohsin Shah also appealed to other coronavirus recovered persons to step ahead and donate plasma to save the lives of their brothers and sisters as precious lives could be saved in this pandemic situation. 

Dr Tahir Shamsi, Chairman, National Institute of Blood Diseases Karachi, remarked that the recovery success of coronavirus affected patients through plasma therapy was 92% and any person having recovered from the virus could donate plasma four times a week with proper intervals. 

According to him a litre of plasma can be administered to two patients and healthy recovered persons should donate plasma generously in war against coronavirus. 

The Vice Chancellor of the Peoples Medical University, Prof Dr Gulshan Ali Memon, and the District Health Officer, Dr Asif Raza Brohi, besides other officials were also present on the occasion. 

Later the Commissioner took a round of different departments of the Regional Blood Centre and he was appreciative of its working, assuring them of full cooperation from his office.

Chinese company donates UAVs to fight locust, COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China’s Shenzhen Sunwin Intelligent Co Ltd has donated five Industrial UAVs (drones) to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on June 24. 

On behalf of the NDMA, Muhammad Irfan, Trade and Investment Counsellor of Consulate General of Pakistan in Guangzhou, attended the donation ceremony in Shenzen. 

Addressing at the ceremony, Pakistan’s Trade and Investment Counsellor appreciated the gesture of the Chinese people, expressing the hope that the friendship between the two countries will be even stronger in future. 

The donation of Sunwin at a critical time when Pakistan was fighting fiercely against both COVID-19 and the locust attack was deemed yet another reflection of iron-clad friendship between Pakistan and China. 

Zhou Yong, Chairman of the Board of Sunwin, stated that China and Pakistan were all weather strategic cooperative partners and the bond of friendship between the two nations has always been unbreakable and rock-solid. 

He recalled that right after the breakout of the COVID-19, Pakistan had mobilized the whole nation to support China. 

“You throw a peach to me, and I give you a white jade for friendship. Now, as Pakistan is in trouble, Sunwin, a Chinese sci-tech enterprise, should embrace our responsibility. We would like to bring our good products in agricultural crops protection to Pakistan and share our experiences in the pandemic control and prevention with the local government and people,” he added. 

Sunwin told China Economic Net that the five Industrial UAVs, with a total value of 200,000 RMB (about $28,291), will depart from China’s Guangzhou and be sent to Pakistan soon. They will assist Pakistan’s fight against the pandemic and locust attack. 

Saiying, a type of drone made by Sunwin, has been used to kill locusts in Pakistan’s Dera Ismail Khan and other places since February 2020, according to Zhou. 

Saiying drone has become a special instrument with super power to destroy locusts for its high efficiency of spraying and disinfecting, strong adaptation and remarkable effect. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in Pakistan, unmanned aerial vehicles could also play an important role in disinfecting, monitoring and temperature measurement. 

After knowing that Pakistan was still in need of drones, Sunwin contacted both of Chinese and Pakistani embassies and made production and donation plans. 

Sunwin was established in 1997 and listed in Shenzhen Stock Exchange in January 2010. It is a leading enterprise in the field of smart city and also a leader in artificial intelligence in China. Sunwin’s main business interests cover four sectors, smart city, big data, artificial intelligence, and culture and education.

3D printed isolation units on way to Pakistan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As many as 15 units of 3D printed isolation units set off from Shanghai and Suzhou ports for Pakistan that would greatly help in curbing COVID-19 pandemic. 

After a month's sea transportation, the consignment will be arriving Pakistan for COVID-19 prevention and cure. 

This consignment was valued at about $123,300, being a donation from Ying Chuang Building Tech (Winsun) after contact and coordination with Consulate General of Pakistan in Shanghai and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), a Chinese website reported on June 24. 

The units have been specifically designed for Pakistan, which showed excellent heat-proof quality. They have already been installed with provision of water and electricity utilities, doors, windows and inner decoration. 

As soon as arriving at the destination, after assembling and connecting with water and electricity supply, they can be put into use promptly. It is learnt that 3D printed isolation units had been used in Hubei and Shandong during the most crucial time and achieved satisfactory feedback. 

After the coronavirus outbreak, the isolation units can be transformed into hotel, park lounge, cafe, guardroom, toilet and emergency room for disaster relief. 

Furthermore, the wards are printed from recycled materials. After crushing, sorting, grinding and high-temperature treatment, these units can be turned into materials again for printing other new buildings.

More dialysis facilities in Larkana, Sukkur

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) is likely to launch a 12-machine dialysis facility for kidney patients operational at Larkana next month.

An officer of the institute revealed that the dialysis unit in question, an extended part of SIUT Chablani Medical Centre of Sukkur, as per plan, will start functioning in the mid of August and it was expected that it would carry out 100,000 dialysis sessions to some 950 patients living in Larkana and its adjoining areas on a yearly basis. 

“Twelve dialysis machines have already been transported to Larkana, which will now be put for trial testing for a period of two weeks. Patients’ monitors required for high dependency unit are in process of being installed while facilities of radiology and pathology are also in the final stages,” it was disclosed. 

The officer further informed that the water purification system by reverse osmosis has already been installed and it would also be ready for use in weeks’ time. “The drainage system which is a project of the local government is also in final stages.” 

About the SIUT’s Chablani centre, he said that it was a full-fledged hospital with in-patient and outpatient services, having operation theatres, 24-hour dialysis unit, lithotripsy, laboratory and radiology services to thousands of patients yearly for more than a decade.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Testing drops in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed an extraordinary reduction in its daily testing of samples for COVID-19 on June 23, when the authorities in the government confirmed another 1,564 new cases, with 21 related deaths. 

Sindh in the shape of 19 designated laboratories, being run in the public or private sector, has the collective capacity of conducting 13,659 samples every day, but the information suggested the laboratories were not utilized fully, as only 48.32% of the capacity tests were done, with a COVID-19 positivity rate of 24%, during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on June 23. 

Earlier on June 22 the designated laboratories and centres tested 9,841 (72%) samples, with a positivity rate of 27%. There was no statement about this sudden drop in the number of tests. 

Astonishing, the Sindh health department was also unable to issue its routine COVID-19 summary, which usually had been telling about the relevant deaths, in addition to other information, though observers for long have been stressing for establishment of a provincial data and updates web portal, which could easily be accessed to. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine COVID-19 statement, informed that 1,564 new cases were found out of 6,597 tests conducted during the last 24 hours, pushing the tally of the infected persons to 72,656. 

In all 395,287 people have been tested so far. Without giving break-up, he further confirmed that 21 COVID-19 patients lost their lives across the province, taking the total number of deceased persons to 1,124 for the province, while 1,352 patients having recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours.  He said that 614 patients were hospitalized in critical condition, including 118 on ventilators. 

Like previous days, Karachi reported the maximum single day tally of new infections as 1,028, followed by Hyderabad (73), Sukkur (66), Ghotki (56), Sanghar (43), Khairpur (39), Jamshoro (26), Larkana (18), Mirpurkhas (12), Naushero Feroze(11), Shikarpur (10), Dadu (8), Matiari (6), Jacobabad (5), Umerkt (5), Thatta (4), Shaeed Benazirabad (2) and Kambar Shahdadkot (1), according to the Chief Minister’s statement.

In the meantime, a federal health ministry data revealed that as of June 22, the total number of healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 in Sindh was 1,323, including 967 doctors, 117 nurses, 239 other health staff. 251 of them had contracted the virus while performing critical care duties while the remaining professionals were engaged in duties elsewhere.

Of the infected Sindh healthcare workers, 541 were kept in home isolation, 59 in hospitals, 57 were stable while two were put on ventilators. The number of the health workers having recovered from the disease was 702 so far, while 21 succumbed to the disease.