Friday, July 31, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Relaxed situation at Karachi hospitals

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

All the designated COVID-19 hospitals in Karachi witnessed a relaxed situation in term of their intensive care unit (ICU) beds’ occupancy on July 31 when authorities confirmed 11 more related fatalities in the province, against 20 reported on July 30, with 489 new infections during the last 24 hours. 

Karachi reported 244 (50%) of the total new cases in Sindh on July 31, against its daily infection rate of 52% on July 30.

Of the 409 ICU beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in Karachi, only 147 (35%) were occupied by patients including 63 those put on ventilators.

However, the only child care exclusive hospital, National Institute of Child Health (NICH) continued working under pressure as its all the four ICU beds were in use on July 31 too.

On the other hand, as of July 31, all testing laboratories, except LUMHS, Essa Lab, Advanced Lab, Al Khidmat Laboratory and Bahria Town Lab and the government run laboratory in Larkana, conducted COVID-19 tests below their sanctioned capacity. 

Against the collective capacity of 14,920 tests, 11,555 samples were taken up, out of which 839 tested positive. On July 31, the new infection rate was one percent less than 5% on July 30.

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine coronavirus status statement, said that the overall number of fatalities had reached to 2,220. However, no district wise breakdown of new fatalities was given in the statement issued by his secretariat.

In the meantime, an official report updated on July 31 said that in all 20 people died during the last 24 hours in Sindh with Karachi (17), Sujawal (1), Hyderabad (1) and Ghotki (1).

In all 110,738 COVID-19 patients have recovered, while there were 8,081 active patients in Sindh on July 31, including 476 at hospitals, out of which 320 were stated to be in critical condition.

Apart from Karachi’s 244 new infections, Sukkur registered 23 cases, followed by Ghotki (20), Hyderabad (15), Tando Allahyar (15), Naushero Feroze (15), Umerkot (15), Badin (12), Kambar Shahdadkot (9), Matiari (10), Shikarpur (6), Shaheed Benazirabad (5), Tando Mohammad Khan (5), Mirpurkhas (3), Sanghar (3), Jacobabad (3) and Jamshoro (3).

Surprisingly, the federal government portal was not updated on August 1 morning. The last time the dashboard numbers were updated at 9.35 am on July 31, and as such any consolidated COVID-19 status and authenticated tests results released by provinces on July 31 were not available there.

Ambassador Moin-ul-Haque assumes charge at Beijing

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The newly appointed Pakistan Ambassador to China, Moin-ul-Haque has arrived in Beijing and assumed his responsibility on July 31. 

"A great honour indeed,” the Ambassador Moin-ul-Haq observed in his twitter message. 

"Pakistan and China are iron brothers. Looking forward to contributing further strengthening Pak-China special ties along with my wonderful team at the embassy,” he further stated. 

A distinguished career diplomat, Ambassador Moin-ul-Haque had served in Belgium, Canada, France, Sri Lankan, Turkey and USA before assuming his responsibility in China. 

Ship with 17,000 tons DAP anchored at Gwadar Port

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A ship, loaded with 17000 tons of foreign DAP, was anchored at the Gwadar Port on July 31.

The fertilizer was being transported to Afghanistan on 550 trucks via Chamman. 

For the first time, bagging of DAP has been done locally instead of the country of origin. 

This step has helped locals to earn their livelihood, besides boosting the transportation business in the area. 

The development of the Gwadar Port happens to be one of the marquee projects of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Gwadar East-Bay to be functional by April 2021

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Gwadar East-Bay Expressway, an important project under the auspices of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is scheduled to be completed by April 2021. 

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs has acknowledged that the construction of East-Bay Expressway was an important line of the Gwadar Port through which the entire traffic of port will flow. 

The East-Bay Expressway will connect the Gwadar Port and its free zones with a network of national highways.

Coronavirus Update: Karachi’s infection rate grows, people warned ahead of Eid

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Amidst apprehension that COVID-19 spread may increase in the province during the Eid ul-Adha holidays, Karachi reported a daily new infection rate of 52% on July 30 when authorities in the government shared that Sindh’s fatality tally had crossed 2,200, with overall 120,896 infections.

After witnessing a decrease in its new COVID-19 infections till July 27 (138 new cases, 27%), Karachi registered a gradual increase in the infection rate up to 51% by July 29. 

On July 30, Karachi’s number of new infections came as 261. Earlier, Karachi, a six-district division, had reported an average 318 new coronavirus cases daily since July 24. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah in his routine COVID-19 statement, remarked that 20 more infected people died during the last 24 hours ending on July 30 morning in the province, taking the total death to 2,209, while 689 more patients recovered from the diseases. 

He further shared that at present there were 8,454 active patients of coronavirus in Sindh, out of which 7,954 (94%) were in home-isolation, 488 (6%) in hospitals, including 399 in critical condition, while 67 were put on ventilators. 

Karachi reported 261 new cases during the last 24 hours, followed by Sukkur (38), Shikaprpur (24), Kashmore (19), Khairpur (18), Shaheed Benazirabad (14), Hyderabad (14), Badin (10), Miprpurkhas (9), Ghotki (9), Dadu (8), Jamshoro (8), Larkana (7), Naushero Feroze (7), Jacobabad (4), Thatta (4), and Sujawal (2). 

According to the official data, 10,842 samples were tested, out of which 498 (5%) came as positive for the diseases in the province. So far, 748,481 tests have been done, with an overall positivity rate of 16%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Sindh sub-office reported that as of July 29, as many as 9,520 samples were tested in the province during the last 24 hours, 5,508 tests at different laboratories of Karachi where positivity rate was 14%, 3,616 at Hyderabad, with a positivity rate of 5%, 173 at Larkana, with a positivity rate of 3%, and 223 at Sukkur, with a positivity rate of 2%.

The WHO’s analysis report related to fatalities said that 2,189 COVID-19 patients died during a period from March 10 to July 29 in Sindh. The highest number of deaths was among 50 years and above (81%), with a male-female ration of 2.3:1.

The report revealed that Karachi East district registered the greatest number of fatalities, ie 621 (28%), among districts, followed by District Central (403 deaths), South (304), Korangi (217), West (196), Malir (143), Hyderabad (57) and other districts.

In the meantime, the Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Pechuho, in a video message on July 30, urged people to practice precautionary measures against COVID-19 on the eve of Eid ul-Adha and adhere to the relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs).

”Avoid mixing with people to greet them and use telephones for the purpose,” she suggested, adding that there were chances of increase in coronavirus cases after Eid ul- Adha, if due care to the preventive measures was not given.

The Secretary of the provincial health department, Dr Kazim Hussain Jatoi, in his statement, also warned people that COVID-19 still prevailed in the community and as such ignoring the SOPs could prove damaging again. He said that an increase in the COVID-19 cases was observed the other day due to the Eid-shopping and non-compliance of the SOPs.

DS Multan mobilizes resources to enhance efficiency, safety

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

In order to ensure the safest possible train operations through Multan Division, the Divisional Superintendent, Pakistan Railways, Shoaib Adil, has mobilized all his resources, having deputed all his officers into their respective fields of operation.

Following his directives, the Divisional Signal Engineer, Allah Ditta Lashari, inspected the signal system from Multan to Galewal. 

He inspected the entire CBI system through Multan, Shershah, Shujabad and Galewal and checked the presence of staff on duty 

He checked CBI system on tracks as well as from the office of respective station masters personally. 

The DS Railways has made it loud and clear to all his staff members about the importance of signal system and called for regular inspection of the system by concerned officials. 

Meanwhile the Assistant Mechanical Engineer, Shah Rukh Malik, also visited loco shed Multan. He inspected the presence of employees, fuel record and new fuel tank. He was informed that new fuel tank stores 7.50 lac litres of diesel.

On the other hand the action against grabbers of railway land also continued with the Deputy Director Property Land, a lady officer, having recovered grabbed land worth Rs 140 million from mafia during the last two months. 

The DS, while appreciating the action, observed that the ongoing recovery drive of land occupied by mafia elements will result in big increase in the Railways revenues. 

In pursuance of the directives issued by the DS, the Divisional Commercial Officer, Hameedullah Lashari, paid a surprise visit to various stations of Multan Division as part of efforts being made for ensuring safe railway operation along with provision of facilities to passengers. 

He checked the presence of commercial staff, booking and parcel clerks, ticket collectors as well as station masters. He also inspected the facilities being provided to travelling passengers and issued instructions for further improvement.

Karakoram Highway Phase-II opens for traffic

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The whole line of Havelian-Thakot of the Karakoram Highway Phase-II (KKH), a project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has opened for traffic.

“This mega road project has been completed under CPEC initiatives, which would prove to be the backbone of the country’s economy and provide employment opportunities to a large portion of the population," Mahmood Khan, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), at the imagination ceremony. 

The 79-kilometer-long Class-II Highway Mansehra-Thakot and the Havelian-Mansehra expressway section, launched in November 2019, constitute the 118-kilometer Havelian-Thakot section. 

Karakoram Highway, the only overland connection between China and Pakistan at present, was built with funding from China during the period of 1966 to 1978. 

The first phase of KKH’s renovation and expansion project had been completed in 2013. 

The following year, a memorandum on the second phase of KKH was signed between Pakistan and China. The KKH-II has three sections, namely, Havelian-Thakot, Havelian-Islamabad and Thakot-Raikot. 

According to the Havelian-Thakot project’s contractor, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), besides this section, the Havelian-Islamabad section has also been completed so far. Only the Thakot-Raikot section is yet to be constructed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh infections cross 120,000

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

While witnessing its overall infection number surpass 120,000, Sindh added 654 (59%) more to overall daily national tally of COVID-19 cases on July 29 when authorities in the government confirmed 17 more fatalities during the last 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 2,189 for the province.

Other provinces that reported new infections on July 29 were Punjab (203), KPK (121) and Balochistan (54). Sindh’s overall infection rate came as 16% compared to 14% of the country. 

According to official data related to testing laboratories performances, 9,520 samples were tested across Sindh during the last 24 hours, out of which 957 were detected positive for COVID-19, including 654 new cases. 

Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences performed the maximum 3,537 tests, with a positivity rate of 4% (144), followed by Indus Hospital Karachi (2,893 tests with 390 positives), PCMD University of Karachi (659/90), Chughtai Lab Karachi (530/35) and AKUH (449/83). 

The maximum percentage of COVID-19 positive samples was registered at SIUT Karachi (44%), followed by the Civil Hospital Karachi (32%), DUHS Hospital (28%), JPMC (25%), SASIMS Sehwan (25%) and others. 

Of the 409 intensive care unit beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in Karachi hospitals, 152 were occupied, while only 16% of 1,350 high dependency unit beds were being utilized by patients on July 29, according to the official data.

 The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on COVID-19 status, said that 9,520 samples were tested across the province during the last 24 hours ending on July 29 morning, with a positivity rate of 7%.

“A total 737,639 samples have been tested, so far, in the province, out of which 120,052 (16%) tested positive,” he added and informed that at present 8,319 active patients were receiving treatment, including 7,810 in home-isolation, 12 at designated isolation centres and 497 at various hospitals.

He further stated that health condition of 407 patients was considered critical while 68 of them were put on ventilators.

The district-wise breakdown of new cases came as: Karachi (335 cases, 51%), Hyderabad (22), Badin (21), Umerkot (18), Ghotki (17), Kashmore (17), Shikarpur (16), Tando Allahyar (16), Jamshoro (13), Matiari (12), Thatta (11), Sanghar (9), Tando Mohammad Khan (9), Shaheed Benazirabad (9), Mirpurkhas (8), Sukkur (7), Kambar Shahdadkot (6), Larkana (5), Dadu (4), Jacobabad (3), Khairpur (3), Naushero Feroze (5)) and Sujawal (3).

The details about hospitalization, gender, age and residential status of the lately deceased patients were neither provided in Sindh CM’s statement nor by the provincial health department.

Study finds casual attitude of Pakistanis towards COVID-19

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

One in six Pakistani adults believed that they and their families were safe from COVID-19 even if they didn’t take any preventive measures, according to a study conducted by Aga Khan University (AKU) and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). 

The Pakistani researchers conducted an online survey of 1,406 adults across Pakistan over the first two weeks of May 2020 and compared the results with a similar study in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is widely regarded as a COVID-19 containment success story. It has seen just 2,770 cases and 22 deaths in 6 months despite being a part of China and never imposing a lockdown.

In contrast, data collected in May 2020 showed Pakistan’s rate of infections per 100,000 people at 137 against Hong Kong’s 33 while Pakistan’s fatality rate per 100,000 was also three times higher at 21 despite imposing wide-ranging lockdowns across the country.

“Comparing risk perceptions, anxiety levels and community response to COVID-19 in Pakistan and Hong Kong can help assess whether Pakistan is prepared to take the strict preventive measures needed to control the spread of the disease,” the researchers from AKU’s department of community health sciences felt. 

The study found that the Pakistanis were less concerned about COVID-19’s complications and felt they were more likely to survive the virus than those surveyed in Hong Kong. Only 41 percent, of Pakistanis rated COVID-19 symptoms as being very severe or severe compared to 97 percent of respondents in Hong Kong. 

Similarly, nearly seven out of ten Pakistanis, or 68 percent, believed they had a high or very high chance of surviving the disease against just 36 per cent of respondents from Hong Kong. Such perceptions about the risk of contracting COVID-19 and its complications contributes to preventive behaviour such as wearing face masks, which are almost universally worn in Hong Kong. 

The Pakistanis were also less likely to seek out information on preventive measures and how to detect COVID-19 symptoms than their counterparts in Hong Kong. 

“The casual attitude of literate Pakistanis to preventive measures and the risk of contracting the disease is concerning. We need to be more cautious and attentive to preventive measures especially during the Eid holidays so that we can continue to contain the disease,” Professor Fauziah Rabbani, the study’s principal investigator and associate vice provost for research at the AKU, stated.

Compared to Hong Kong, Pakistan is much more trusting of its government. Nearly eight out of ten Pakistanis, or 79 percent, rate government information as being very reliable compared with just 16 per cent of people in Hong Kong. 

“In Hong Kong citizens took charge of the pandemic as they didn’t trust the government. The Pakistanis are fortunate to have proactive government campaigns about mask use and physical distancing but remain reluctant to follow these measures,” she added. 

The researchers also analysed the data by gender to assess differing perceptions about COVID-19 between Pakistani men and women. In general, Pakistani men had a lower risk perception of COVID-19 compared to women. Despite a government-imposed lockdown only 71 percent of men avoided going out in contrast to 87 percent of women. 

Moreover, 62 percent of women reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety compared to 50 percent of men. Men in Pakistan preferred to acquire information about the pandemic from their family and friends while women in the country viewed information from doctors as being more reliable. 

The researchers noted that in both countries, seven out of 10 citizens were reluctant to go to hospitals or clinics. They called on Pakistanis with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiac diseases, maternal as well as child health issues to continue seeking care whilst adopting preventive measures at hospitals and clinics. 

Dr Adeel Abid, Dr Hania Shahzad, Dr Hyder Ali Khan, Dr Suneel Piryani and Dr Areeba Raza Khan from the AKU were also associated in the study.

Natural gas being extracted from 28 wells in Sindh

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The natural gas being produced from 28 wells in Sindh, while drilling is carried out in five areas in Ghotki, Larkana and Sanghar where sufficient amount of oil and gas is being expected to be fetched. 

The information was provided by the Parliamentary Secretary on Petroleum, Khyal Zaman, in the National Assembly while responding to various questions related to the Petroleum Ministry. 

He said that the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) owed Rs 72 billion while the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) owed a whopping Rs 192 billion. 

Responding to a question from former Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, Federal Minister, Omar Ayub, clarified that there was no change under the head of petroleum levy. 

It was revealed that iron, copper and lead reserves were found in Chitral and survey of all minerals had been completed. A large quantum of oil reserves have also been discovered in Kohat, Hangu and Karak.

It was further informed that the work on oil and gas expiration would be carried out in Waziristan districts after getting survey reports expected in a year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Coronavirus Update: People in 30s worst affected

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh has witnessed 30 to 39-year-old people the worst affected by COVID-19, as authorities in the government on July 28 registered 574 more new infections, with 10 related fatalities, during the last 24 hours across the province.

An official data related to Sindh revealed that as of July 28, the maximum of 28,826 people between the ages of 30-39 tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the disease, followed by people of ages 20 to 29 (25,337), 40 to 49 (21,329), 50 to 59 (16,755), 60 to 69 (8,453), 10 to 19 (7,686), 0 to 9 (6,444) and 70 plus people (4,251). 

Earlier, according to data, the infection number was recorded same (7,725) in the cases of two age groups of 20 to 29 and 30-39 on June 5. 

Sharing the COVID-19 data through his routine statement on July 28, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, said that there were 8,237 active patients, including 7,721 at homes, 11 at isolation centres and 505 in hospitals.

At present, the disease rate is higher among under 40s courtesy greater social contact and more relaxed attitudes among them towards physical distancing and government introduced protection measures, according to keen observers. 

As many 343 patients are told critically ill, he added, informing that 67 patients were being given ventilator support.

Nothing was told about the gender, age and hospitalization of the deceased persons and the districts where they lived in by the health authorities.

He said that the infection tally for the province had reached to 119,398, while fatalities were recorded at 2,172, with a case fatality rate of 1.8%.

He confirmed that 10 new deaths occurred during the last 24 hours ending on morning of July 28 while 509 more patients recovered from the diseases.

In the meantime, a Sindh health department website, updated late on July 28, showed a total 2,199 COVID-19 deaths, so far, in Sindh, with total infections of 119,337. 

According to data, Karachi reported the maximum of 244 cases (43%) among the districts of the province on July 28, followed by Sukkur (26), Dadu (25), Khairpur (24), Ghotki (23), Hyderabad (21), Shikarpur (21), Naushero Feroze (20), Kashmore (18), Sanghar (16), Tando Mohammad Khan (13), Shaheed Benazirabad (12), Tando Allahyar (8), Mirpurkhas (7), Umerkot (7), Jamshoro (7), Badin (6), Matiari (5), Larkana (3), Kambar Shahdadkot (3) and Jacobabad (1).

Another official report informed that 26 testing laboratories across the province, with a collective capacity of 14,900, conducted 9,571 COVID-19 tests (64% of their total capacity), out of which 750 were found positive, including 575 new cases.

The report further said that Sindh registered 11 COVID-19 related deaths on July 27, including nine at Karachi and one each at Sujawal and Mirpurkhas, while two of them occurred at homes.

Pakistan largest recipient of Chinese investment in FY20

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan happened to the largest recipient of Chinese investment in the financial year ’20, it emerged on July 28. 

China had invested an amount of USD 855.6 million in a period of 11 months of FY20, according to the details revealed by a Chinese website. 

These investments mainly poured in the power sector under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the website further disclosed. 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government has decided to invite international tenders for Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway (M-6), a critical part of CPEC. 

The tenders are expected to be floated on July 31, the website reported, having quoted the Chairman of the National Highway Authority (NHA), Captain (rtd) Sikandar Qayyum.

Railways recover occupied land in Multan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The divisional authorities of Pakistan Railways have recovered land having been occupied by the mafia and grabbers in Multan upon the directives of the Divisional Superintendent, Shoaib Adil, 

In a crackdown, launched by the divisional officials, the railway land worth Rs 130 million has been recovered during the last couple of months. 

DS Shoaib Adil has appreciated the success achieved in recovering the railway land from mafia and directed that the campaign should continue unabated. 
Meanwhile, upon his initiatives, another crackdown was underway against people crossing the tracks illegally as part of the ongoing drive for ensuring safe railway operation. 

In this regard, on his instructions, warning boards have been installed at vantage points asking the trespassers to avoid crossing the railway line illegally or otherwise they will be arrested.

Acting on DS directives, the Khanewal Railway Police arrested accused Muhammed Atif while crossing the track on his motorcycle illegally at gate No 215 on the occasion of arrival of Sir Syed Express.

Another motorcyclist was apprehended at the same gate while illegally crossing the line oon the occasion of arrival of Millat Express.

Meanwhile on DS directive, the Divisional Engineer Abid Razaq completed the inspection of railway track from Multan to Mian Chunnoo.

During inspection he observed the working of gang men, level crossings and the bridges falling on this section.

He also inspected various railway colonies and issued necessary instructions to field staff besides listening to problems of various railway employees and issuing directives for their solution.

DS Shoaib Adil has strictly asked the divisional officials to go into the field instead of sitting at their offices so that the railway journey could be made safer.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Home isolation preferred

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Only 6% of the COVID-19 active patients were admitted in hospitals of Sindh on July 27 when authorities in the government registered another 513 new cases, with 11 new deaths, across the province during the last 24 hours.

The provincial data suggested that the burden of COVID-19 patients had significantly decreased from hospitals, while 94% of the infected cases were receiving treatment in home-isolation. 

During a period from July 21-27, 4-6% of the entire COVID-19 patients were admitted in about 50 designated government and private hospitals across the province. 

According to the provincial government’s report, as of July 25, a total of 5,323 patients were admitted at the hospitals, out of which 3,071 could be cured and 631 (12%) were still receiving treatment, while 1,621 (30%) lost their lives. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine statement on July 27, shared that there were 8,182 active COVID-19 cases in the province, out of which 7,655 were in isolation at homes, while six were in the government designated isolation centres and 521 were hospitalized with as many as 67 were put on ventilators.

He said that with the latest registration of positive cases the overall number of infections in the province had reached to 118,824 (17%), while the fatality tally came as 2,162 (CFR= 1.8%). A total of 8,742 samples were tested, with a positivity rate of six percent.

However, details of deceased persons’ hospitalization and districts they lived in were neither provided by the Chief Minister nor the provincial health department.

According to a Sindh government report, updated on July 27, of the 412 intensive care unit beds, including 321 in Karachi, 175 were occupied, while only 21% of the high dependency unit beds (1,105) were utilized.

During the last 24 hours, ending on July 27 morning, Karachi reported the maximum of 138 (27%) new cases, followed by Shikarpur (32), Ghotki (31), Hyderabad (26), Sukkur (26), Shaheed Benazirabad (23), Khairpur (20), Badin (19), Kashmore (19), Mirpurkhas (17), Larkana (14), Jamshoro (14), Naushero Feroze (13), Sanghar (13), Umerkot (10), Tando Mohammad Khan (8), Dadu (7), Kambar Shahdadkot (6), Jacobabad (5), Sujawal (4), Matiari (3), Tando Allahyar (3) and Thatta (2).

In the meantime, officers of the Sindh health and population welfare departments, along with officials and employees of the Sindh Emergency Operation Centre for Polio and Sindh Police department undertook activities aimed at creating awareness around childhood diseases, COVID-19 prevention. They distributed literature and facemasks in different localities in the South district of Karachi.

Railways organize seminar on safe train operation in Multan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Divisional Superintendent, Pakistan Railways Multan Division, Shoaib Adil, chaired the second seminar on safe train operation focussing on prevention of accidents.

Attended by Station Masters, Traffic Inspectors, Permanent Way Inspectors, Train Examiners and representatives of Railway Police, the DS underlined the importance of prevention of any accident and exhorted that everyone will have to walk together to achieve this most critical objective.

In this regard, he said that a vigil watch will have to be kept by all the officers and employees, including signal staff, engineering department, transport personnel and those who are posted at railway crossings which would help avoid occurrence of accidents.

The biggest challenge, he reckoned, was illegally crossing of the tracks as well as trespassers and it needed a sharp crackdown against those unlawfully crossing the railway line or walking on or around the railway line.

“At the same time train drivers too have a vital responsibility to prevent accidents because thousands of valued passengers they are carrying,” Shoaib Adil stressed.

The Divisional Transportation Officer (DTO), Hameed Lashari, advised loco drivers, station masters, traffic inspectors, PWI, TXR, railway police to pay special attention on track maintenance, coaches and wagons and, most importantly, the passengers.

"If we give full attention to tracks maintenance then it is possible to avoid accidents besides focusing on level crossings while strictly adhering to the railway rules and safety,” he explained.

Speaking on the occasion, Deputy DS, Saima Bashir, cautioned that there was no room for any error any more.

She remarked that it was the second safety interactive workshop while such workshops will be organized every week.

The Deputy DS urged upon all the railway employees to perform their duty honestly, diligently and dedication. 

Divisional Engineers, Mohammad Jamshed Ali and Nasir Hanif, also spoke to sensitize participants and highlighted the importance of the role of each category of Railway employee in ensuring safety.

Drones to be used for highways surveillance

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Choudhry, credited for reviving the ministry by swiftly launching a number of projects for the benefit of the masses and promoting Made in Pakistan concept, has reckoned that the future depended on drone technology.

In a media talk, he pointed out that the next target of the Ministry was to use drones for traffic surveillance on highways on which hitherto a large chunk of amount was being spent on patrolling including fuel. 

"To start with surveillance from Motorway, I am in contact with the Minister of Communications,” he revealed, adding that it will be spread later on all motorways around the country. 

He emphasized that the use of drone technology will take over Pakistan’s agriculture implements that would practically benefit the growers. “These drones can be used for seeding, spraying and for crops surveillance,” the Minister stated.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Karachi still besieged

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Amidst reports that various most affected cities of Pakistan have witnessed significant decrease in their daily number of new of COVID-19 infections in recent days, Karachi reported 42% of the total new cases registered in Sindh on July 26. 

Authorities in the government shared on July 26 that Karachi reported 298 of the total 713 new cases in the province during the last 24 hours with 16 new related fatalities, against Pakistan's 20 deaths.

After witnessing a gradual decrease in its new COVID-19 infections for a week, Karachi reported a 120% increase in the number of daily new cases on July 22 when authorities in the government confirmed 714 new cases in the city. 

The megapolis has reported an average about 450 new coronavirus cases daily since July 22. It registered 417 new cases on July 16, which increased to 477 on July 17, but gradually declined up to 179 on July 20. The infections increased to 324 on July 21 while 305 on July 23 for a gradual daily increase up to up to 456 on July 25 and then decreased by 35% on July 26. 

Keen observers expressed the view that Karachi trend wise was yet to show a stable picture of the epidemic. They attributed the ups and downs in the infection reporting to certain circumstantial issues, including the mobilization of surveillance and intervention teams and infavourable weather conditions. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine COVID-19 statement, urged the people to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) introduced by the government in the wake of the disease.

He said that 16 more infected people died during the last 24 hours ending on July 26, taking the fatality tally to 2,151 for the province. However, no details about the deceased persons’ hospitalization or residential districts were given in the statement.

He further disclosed that there were 8,634 COVID-19 active patients in the province, out of which 16 were in the designated isolation centres and 418 at hospitals, while the remaining were receiving treatment at homes.

As many as 415 patients are in critical conditions, he added, saying the number of people infected with the lethal virus reached to 118,311 on July 26.

 Apart from Karachi, new cases were reported from Khairpur (38), Naushero Feroze (29), Shikarpur (29), Hyderabad (27), Umerkot (26), Ghotki (25), Thatta (25), Mirpurkhas (22), Shaheed Benazirabad (21), Jamshoro (20), Sanghar (15), Dadu (14), Matiari (13), Larkana (10), Sujawal (8), Jacobabad (7), Badin (5) and Tando Allahyar (4).

In the meantime, the Sindh health department’s website, updated around 9 pm on July 26, showed the total infections in Sindh as 118,187 and number of deaths as 2,165.

Another official report said that as of July 25, as many as 11,009 tests were conducted across Sindh during the last 24 hours, out of which 1,135 were found positive for COVID-19, including 798 new infections. Many of the Karachi based laboratories performed below their capacity, while at least three did not try any sample at all.

It was further learnt that as of July 25, a total of 1,621 COVID-19 patients lost their lives in Hospitals across the province, including AKU Hospital (121 deaths), CHK (214), JPMC (214), Indus Hospital Korangi (174), LNH (38), Lyari General Hospital (163), DUHS Hospital (217), SIUT (167), Trauma Centre Karachi (92), Ziauddin Hospital Clifton 82 and others.

Political maestro Asif Ali Zardari turns 65

By Tanzeel Rauf Farooqui
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

Asif Ali Zardari, a man of multiple reputations, has turned 65 on July 26. Popularly known as the master of reconciliation, the former President of Pakistan is acclaimed to be a political maestro. 

Born to Hakim Ali Zardari and Bilquis Sultana Zardari in a notable and prominent tribe on July 26, 1955, Asif Zardari had a resourceful background. His political rise, however, came after he married Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, on December 18, 1987. 

Elections were held the following year and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came to power with Benazir Bhutto becoming the first women Prime Minister in Islamic world. 

Upon the dismissal of the PPP-led government, Asif Zardari fell prey to political vindication and faced multiple and prolonged arrests starting in October 1990. He, however, was elected as a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan in the same month of October 1990. 

Despite securing bail, he was not allowed to be released from prison by the government and had to wait until February 1993 before he was released. Later he was acquitted of all charges. 

He joined the cabinet of the caretaker government in April 1993, and after the general elections that year, Benazir Bhutto’s PPP once again rose to the pinnacle of power. 

Controversies awaited the second government of the PPP as well with the Bhutto family divided between Benazir Bhutto and her brother Mir Murtaza Bhutto, who was being supported by their mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto. 

Following the murder of Murtaza Bhutto in a shootout, the government was dismissed and Asif Zardari was arrested again in November 1996. 

Despite the corruption charges and various scandals his popularity graph continued rising and he was elected to the Senate of Pakistan in March 1997. 

While remaining incarcerated, he suffered an alleged suicide attempt in May 1999 and had to be shifted to the hospital from Karachi’s Central Jail. 

After prolonged imprisonment before completion of any trial, he was released on bail in November 2004 but was shortly re-arrested and placed under a short term of house arrest before he was allowed to leave for exile. 

A master of reconciliation as he was to become, he managed to strike a deal with the then President General Pervez Musharraf, known as the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) which was drafted in October 2007, through which he managed to waive all the charges leveled against himself and Benazir Bhutto. 

As a result of the NRO, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after her exile and was unfortunately assassinated on December 27, 2007. 

Carrying the legacy, Asif Zardari came to the forefront and alleged that his spouse was assassinated due to the lack of security provided by the government. 

Elections were held in 2008 and the PPP returned to power after a gap of 12 years. Upon the resignation of General Pervez Musharraf, Asif Zardari was elected as the new President of Pakistan and he went on to complete his term of five years, as did the PPP government, unlike the previous two occasions when they were shown the door in about a couple of years only. 

Asif Zardari silenced his critics in his role as head of the state as he proved himself to be an accomplished statesman. He rose to the occasion much to the dismay of his opponents who had thought of him to be not fit for the job. He conducted various successful visits around the world and was welcomed by his counterparts. 

The control which he had over his party was commendable, as he, while being the President, discarded the President’s power to dismiss the government through the celebrated Eighteenth (18th) Amendment, a power which was arguably misused by many Presidents in the past and he became the pilot who brought Pakistan back on route to the democratic principles. 

He’s also credited to be the leader who brought the mighty China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to Pakistan, which has been consolidated by the successive governments since then. 

The PPP sat in the opposition after losing the 2013 elections to the Pakistan Muslim League, headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, while the Asif Zardari-led PPP was overwhelmed by the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI). 

Asif Zardari was arrested in a fake bank accounts case, which the PPP alleged, was registered by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) due to the pressure of the government. He was nominated as an accused and was arrested on June 10, 2019 by the NAB and stayed behind bars until he was granted bail on December 11, 2019. 

Regarded as one of the most unpredictable politicians that Pakistan has ever produced, Asif Zardari has faced imprisonment for a period of almost fourteen (14) years and his health has deteriorated to a substantial degree. 

He is still regarded as a major player in the politics of Pakistan, the master of reconciliation, without any doubt. He is one of the few politicians having shown that he is not afraid of incarceration and has, on multiple occasions, stated that prison is his second home. 

The ever-smiling, witty politician cannot be understood by everyone as he has developed a personality that is indeed distinct to his political rivals. The political slogan of the PPP that is “Ek Zardari sub pe bhaari” does in both letter and spirit suit this unique politician.

China’s homegrown amphibious aircraft makes sea-based test flight

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China's domestically developed large amphibious aircraft AG600 successfully made its first sea-based test flight on July 26. 

The test flight demonstrated the aircraft's ability to operate in challenging maritime conditions and conduct missions, including far sea cargo transport and maritime emergency rescue, the aircraft's developer said. 

The AG600 aircraft took off from waters near the coastal city of Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on the morning of July 26. It was on show for around 31 minutes and finished a set of test maneuvers in the sky, before landing at an airport in Rizhao, Shandong Province. 

The event marked the success of the AG600's first sea-based test flight, the aircraft's developer Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) announced in a statement. It also prepared the aircraft to conduct missions, including far sea cargo transport and maritime emergency rescue, in the future, the company said. 

The successful sea-based test flight indicated the AG600 has now basically reached its designed goal. Its next steps will likely involve more test flights as well as tests that challenge the plane's ability to resist sea water corrosion for extended periods, carry heavy cargo, and put out fire. 

The Chinese military expert, Yin Zhuo, told China Central Television previously that the AG600 is also suitable for military operations, such as patrol and anti-submarine missions. The amphibious aircraft is expected to be delivered by 2022, the Xinhua News Agency had reported in 2018.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Higher fatalities in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The number of daily deaths was witnessed higher with 25 new COVID-19 deaths in Sindh on July 25 when the authorities in the government confirmed detection of 798 new cases, against 917 of July 24, taking the overall tally of infection to 117,598 for the province.

According to COVID-19 data pertaining to Sindh, on average 23 patients died daily in the province during a period from July 19 to 25. 

On July 19 the number of fatalities came as 19, which gradually increased to 36 on July 23 and decreased to 14 on July 24. 

Sindh reported 71% of the total COVID-19 fatalities (35) registered across the country on July 25, according to data compiled by the federal health ministry. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah in his daily statement on the coronavirus status on July 25, disclosed that the new deaths had pushed the disease fatality to 2,135. 

He shared that at present there were 11,444 active patients of COVID-19 in the province with 10,784 of them in home isolation, 29 at isolation centres and 631 at hospitals. 

“The condition of 429 patients was stated to be critical while 66 of them were put on ventilators,” he declared.

According to data, 11,009 samples were tested during the last 24 hours ending on the morning of July 25, out of which seven percent tested positive for the virus at different laboratories in the province.

Since February 26, when the disease for the first time was detected in Sindh, 699,326 tests have been conducted, with a positivity rate of 17%, against the country’s overall infection rate of 19%.

Any additional information about the deceased persons, including a district-wise breakdown of patients who lost their lives to coronavirus during the last 24 hours, was not released either by the Chief Minister or the provincial health department.

However, as per another official status report, of the 36 COVID-19 deaths that occurred in Sindh on July 23, as many as 33 were reported from Karachi, while Khairpur, Sanghar and Jamshoro reported one death each. Five of the deaths in question occurred at homes.

The report further said that a total of 528 patients died at home, against 4,607 deaths reported by hospitals, during a period from May 9 to July 24 in the country.

On July 25, Karachi reported 456 new cases, followed by Hyderabad (48), Tando Allahyar (26), Sanghar (20), Badin (19), Shikarpur (18), Shaheed Benazirabad (14), Mirpurkhas (13), Khairpur (11), Matiari (11), Tando Mohammad Khan (11), Umerkot (11), Larkana (10), Kambar Shadadkot (10), Dadu (9), Jamshoro (8), Ghotki (5) , Naushero Feroze (3), Sukkur (3), Thatta (2) and Jacobabad (1).

In the meantime, a national COVID-19 report disclosed that 26 testing laboratories located in Sindh, with a collective capacity of testing 14,850 samples daily, remained ahead of laboratories of other provinces on July 23 when the utilized 66% of their test capacity.

A World Health Organization (WHO) Sindh sub-office report said that as of July 24, the greatest number of intensive care unit beds (404) were in Karachi.