Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Consensus reached in trilateral dialogue

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China, Afghanistan and Pakistan held in-depth discussions and reached consensus on cooperation against COVID-19, the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and trilateral cooperation.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, consensus was arrived at the third round of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral Vice Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue held via video link on July 7. 

The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Luo Zhaohui, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister, Mirwais Nab, and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary, Sohail Mahmood, co-chaired the dialogue. 

According to the joint news release of the video conference, the three sides attached great importance to the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral cooperation and vowed to continue to vigorously implementing the outcome of the third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' dialogue. 

The three sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening communication and coordination besides enhancing mutual trust and cooperation under the trilateral cooperation mechanism. 

They agreed to further the cooperation against COVID-19, call on the international community to jointly prevent discrimination and stigma, support the World Health Organization's leading role in coordinating global COVID-19 response, promote international cooperation on joint prevention and control, and safeguard public health security in the region and beyond.

Coronavirus Update: No respite in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh witnessed no decrease in its daily COVID-19 deaths for the second day running, as the provincial health authorities on July 7 confirmed yet another 42 fatalities, with 1,388 new positive cases, taking the death tally to 1,614 and total infections to 97,626. 

According to official data, Sindh’s number of daily deaths had almost doubled on the previous day with 46 deaths on July 6. An average about 34 patients died daily during a period from July 1 to 7. 

According to the health department’s daily COVID-19 summary, a total of 9,317 tests were conducted during the last 24 hours, pushing the number of people so far tested against the lethal virus to 524,222 for the province which meant that the overall infection rate in Sindh remained about 19%. 

In the meantime, a Sindh health department website, updated at 8 pm on July 7, showed the number of coronavirus confirmed cases as 97,805, with 1,642 deaths, while number of people having recovered from the diseases cam as 55,620. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on COVID-19, said that 650 patients were reported critically ill during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on July 7 and 76 of them were put on ventilators.

According to reports, the daily infection rate was found about 15% on July 7, against 14% of July 6, which was 20.75% on July 5. 

Karachi reported the maximum number of 759 among the districts of Sindh, followed by Khairpur (86), Hyderabad (71), Sanghar (68), Umerkot (66), Shaheed Benazirabad (64), Sukkur (48), Kashmore (41), Badin (38), Jamshoro (37), Naushero Feroze (27), Matiari (16), Mirpurkhas (16), Tando Allahyar (14), Shikarpur (10), Jacobabad (7), Tando Mohammad Khan (7), Larkana (4), Dadu (4), Kambar Shahdadkot (3), and Ghotki (2). 

Of the 42 infected people who died on July 7, 38 belonged to Karachi, including 29 men and 9 women. The men were aged from 28 to 88 years while women were in the age brackets of 55 to 84 years. 

Hyderabad registered deaths of two women and one man, who were aged from 55 to 93, while 70-year-old man died of COVID at Khairpur. However, health department did not provide details of the deceased people’s hospitalization or their isolation at homes. 

According to the official data, Karachi had the maximum number of 75,204 cases of infection, with 1,372 deaths, since February 26 when it reported the first COVID case of the country, followed by Hyderabad (3,408 with 52 deaths), Sukkur (2,959, with 22 deaths), Ghotki (2,549, with 10 deaths), Khairpur (2,016, with 10), Larkana (1,757, with 29 deaths), Shaheed Benazirabad (1,001, with 5 deaths) and other districts. 

It was further learnt that 22 COVID-19 laboratories across the province performed 9,317 tests, against their collective capacity of 9,300, during the last 24 hours, out of which 1,974 were found positive.

Meanwhile a WHO Sindh sub-office report said that COVID-19 laboratories at Karachi conducted 8,137 tests on July 6, while those at Hyderabad performed 4,287 tests, followed by Sukkur (56). The percentage of positive was highest in Karachi with 30. 

Only 5% of the positive cases were admitted in hospitals, while one per cent in government isolation centres and the remaining (95%) active cases were in home-isolation.

China’s maize-soybean technology brings bumper harvest in Punjab

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The harvest of maize-soybean strip inter-cropping demonstration in Bahawalpur, Punjab, was completed on July 6. The yields of soybean and maize reached 1,304 kg/ha and 8,596 kg/ha respectively, which exhibited satisfactory results.

This was indeed encouraging news for local farmers who desired growing soybean without curbing the cultivation of maize, the Gwadar Pro, a Chinese website, reported July 7. 

Maize harvest in this inter-cropping field outdistanced the country’s average maize yield which was only around 5,000 kg per hectare. Meanwhile, the farmers received considerable soybeans as an additional return. 

As the selling price of soybean was two to three times that of maize, when comparing the two crops as a whole, the overall economic benefit had been significantly improved. 

“If you calculate the total benefits, maize-soybean inter-cropping will be the best system in terms of income and ecological sustainability,” Muhammad Ali Raza, a Pakistani student of China’s Sichuan Agricultural University, remarked. 

Having been trained under the guidance and support of Professor Yang Wenyu, he is credited to have brought this technology from China to Pakistan. 

There’s a lack of soybean production in Pakistan. Till now Pakistan has relied on imports to meet the soybean needs. 

“Now increasing soybean area is encouraged in Pakistan. For farmers who are not ready to reduce their maize area, the best available option is to use the inter-cropping tech,” Ali stated, adding that Prof Yang was satisfied with the yield data and provided his professional advice for future planting.

In his opinion, the maize yield could have been lifted more if double quantity of fertilizer was applied to each unit length because in the inter-cropping filed the number of maize plants is twice as many as that in the pure maize field.

Furthermore, selecting shade-resistant soybean varieties is also a key point, and the yield of soybean can reach a new high. It’s also learnt that after COVID-19 pandemic ends, specialized machinery such as planters and harvesters will be introduced to Pakistan to further boost the production efficiency.

Massive potential of green energy in Pakistan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The green energy including hydropower potential in Pakistan is about 100 GW, but the explored potential was 56,770MW. By the end of 2019, China had participated in 24 hydropower projects in Pakistan, with an installed capacity of about 12,282 MW.

Among them, there are 9 projects under construction with an installed capacity of 6680 MW, 15 projects have been built, with an installed capacity of 5602 MW. 

These details were revealed on July 6 by the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute (CREEI) in its report on the development of China’s foreign cooperation on renewable energy sector in 2019. 

The cooperation on renewable energy sector, such as hydropower, wind power and photovoltaic power, between China and international community has been enhanced in recent years. 

China has established 58 bilateral cooperation projects and participated in 33 multilateral cooperation projects with other countries including Pakistan. 

The report mentioned that Pakistan had timely adjusted its renewable energy development goals and policies in 2019, according to national development requirements and the latest demand. 

“Pakistan is rich in clean energy resources and has great potential for development. Thanks to CPEC, China and Pakistan have deepened cooperation in this field.” 

According to the report, hydroelectric power is still the most important resource of renewable energy.

The 64 countries along BRI have become the most popular areas for hydropower investment, such as Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Those countries, with rich hydropower resources and low degree of exploitation, have huge potentials to develop hydropower.

China has established cooperation on hydropower with several countries including Pakistan. Ranked by the scale of projects, among the top 20 countries with China participating in hydropower cooperation, Myanmar has 39 projects with a scale of 20,858 MW while Pakistan has 24 cooperation projects with a scale of 12,282 MW.

Regarding wind power, by 2030, there will be a triple increase of onshore wind and tenfold increase of offshore wind around the globe while a large-scale electrification will be achieved.

China accounted for seven of the world's top 10 wind power developers by installed capacity in 2019, and all the top four. The scale of China's foreign cooperation on wind power has reached 6424 MW, mainly in onshore wind power and in Asia-Pacific region.

Besides Australia and Argentina, Pakistan is another important partner who has deeply cooperated with China on wind power sector. According to the report, Pakistan is rich in wind energy resources, with high annual average wind speed, exceeding 7 m/s, stable wind direction and good wind energy quality. If it can be developed and utilized, it can meet 5-10% of Pakistan's electricity demand.

This report also analyzed the development of photovoltaic power, biomass energy, geothermal energy, photo-thermal power, and other renewable energy. China’s cooperation with Russia, Britain, Pakistan, Switzerland and seven other countries has further deepened in 2019.

DS Railways meets container handlers

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Divisional Superintendent, Pakistan Railways, Karachi, Arshad Salam Khattak, held a meeting with representatives of container handlers, associated with the freight operations of Pakistan Railways, at his office on July 7. 

The objective of the meeting was to devise a coherent strategy between Pakistan Railways and container handlers in line with the targeted goals to be achieved during the FY 2020-21 started with effect from July 1, 2020.

"Pakistan Railways' freight-related plans and strategies could not be accomplished without taking on board stakeholders" the DS remarked, adding that the freight service was the lifeline of Pakistan Railways and reorientation of the business processes was being carried out.

The container handlers, appreciating the initiative of engaging them, informed the DS about the issues confronted by them. 

The DS, right away, directed the concerned officers for resolving the issues of container handlers and for facilitating them fully. 

Meanwhile the Karachi Division is contemplating provision of additional lines at Jumma Goth and opening up service from Coal Load Out Station at Bin Qasim. 

The DS was accompanied by Deputy DS, Fateh Mohammad Janwri, Divisional Transportation Officer (Division), Ishaq Baloch, and Divisional Transportation Officer (Ports) Ghulam Farid Asad.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Karachi electricity in shambles once more after 30-minute rain

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi has had a history of power breakdowns as soon as the first drop of rain arrives in the city over the years.

Primarily because of the electricity issues and then because of the lack of infrastructure for drainage and sewage the residents of the metropolis have remained fearful of rain although it’s a huge blessing from Nature. 

The first monsoon rainfall of 2020 on July 6 was made equally frightening by the power failures. Although it had rained for only half an hour or so, the city had gone out of power for more than 12 hours in many localities. 

The entire city was jolted by the loss of electricity immediately upon the arrival of rain and people were denied the pleasure of enjoying what could have been a pleasant afternoon after some horribly hot and humid days. 

K-Electric became the villain once more as people from every nook and corner of Karachi expressed their displeasure and anger at the power breakdown which continued for many hours. The whole system seemed to have crashed and collapsed within minutes. 

The social media was flooded with messages and photographs of the fallen electricity poles and wires which resulting in causing great inconvenience to the people of Karachi, beside taking away electricity from their houses, apartments and offices. Even the transformers were displaced at a few places.

It has happened literally every time in Karachi whenever the initial drops of rain plunge the whole city into darkness.

It’s quite amazing how consistently it continues to happen and no remedial actions are taken despite the fact that the cost of electricity has skyrocketed with the passage of time.

It has mattered little whether it was the now defunct Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC) or the newly named K-Electric, the citizens of Karachi have suffered every time rain has dropped in the city.

KESC had fared as miserably in serving the people when it was in the public sector. Little progress, if any, has been witnessed even after the takeover by a private party and as we could see again on July 6, there seem no prospects of any change in their performance.

Doesn’t seem it strange that the hugely resourceful K-Electric is unable to provide the desired services to its customers?

Isn’t it a pity that they couldn’t devise any strategy to ensure uninterrupted power when the monsoon rain was very much on the cards?

There are many cities and towns in this world which receive showers throughout the year but they hardly ever witness any power failure. It’s really a tragedy that a city as big and as significant as Karachi has struggled to have electricity on rainy days.

Coronavirus Update: 46 more fatalities in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh, with overall COVID-19 infection rate of 19% on July 6, registered 46 more related fatalities, while the number of infections rose to 96,236. The province, according to data released by the Sindh health department, reported 1,708 new infections. The daily infection rate came as 13.68%, which was 20.75% on July 5, against 14.78% of July 4, 14.85 of July 3.

Keen observers said that Sindh needed a stable daily infection rate, in addition to reducing its daily death rate.

The province reported an average of 33 deaths daily during a period of June 30 to July 6 which, according to the experts, passed the impression that public and private hospitals were unable to manage the infected cases presented to them. 

As per the provincial data, updated on July 6, 15 patients in the age group of 0-9 years, 9 in 10-19, 27 in 20-29, 70 in 30-39, 184 in 40-49, 398 in 50-59, 436 in 60-69 and 440 of age 70 and plus have lost their lives at hospitals and homes due to COVID-19 so far in Sindh. 

According to a report generated by an international health agency, Sindh’s 48% of the fatalities occurred in government health facilities, 28% at private hospitals and 20% at homes across the province, during a period from March 10 to July 4. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily statement on COVID-19 status, said that 40,809 patients were at present receiving treatment against the lethal virus across the province, including 38,875 at homes, 1,607 in hospitals and 327 at various isolation centres while the condition of 623 patients was critical. 

The Sindh health department reports revealed that 39 patients, including 32 men and seven women, lost their lives in Karachi. The deceased men were aged from 30 to 79 years while the women were in the age brackets of 47 to 83. There was no mention of hospitals or homes where they died, however. 

In addition, Ghotki, Khairpur, Hyderabad, Thatta and Umerkot registered a death each during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on July 6. The deceased persons, all men, were aged from 50 to 76 years. The overall death tally rose to 1,572 on July 6 for the province. 

As many as 1,038 new people were tested positive for coronavirus at Karachi on July 6, followed by Hyderabad (191), Sukkur (107), Shaheed Benazirabad (48), Sanghar (42), Naushero Feroze (35), Tando Allahyar (34), Khairpur (30), Mirpurkhas (25), Larkana (22), Kambar Shahdadkot (21), Jamshoro (21), Sujawal (19), Matiari (16), Shikarpur (15), Tando Mohammad Khan (21), Ghotki (8), Thatta (6), Dadu (3), Kashmore (3) and Jacobabad (2).

Scientists convinced about coronavirus floating in air as aerosol

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

More than 200 scientists from around the world have challenged the official point of view of regarding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as the pandemic has rocked the whole world by having killed over half a million people. 

The scientists have contended the observations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has continued to list only a couple of reasons of the transmission of the deadly virus. 

While the two organizations have maintained that inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person in immediate vicinity or touching a contaminated surface and then eyes, nose or mouth were the two reasons of the contagious disease finding its way into others but the scientists have reckoned that there was growing evidence another way of its transmission. 

These scientists appear convinced on the basis multiple studies which demonstrated that particles known as aerosols, microscopic versions of standard respiratory droplets, can hang in the air for long periods and float dozens of feet, making poorly ventilated rooms, buses and other confined spaces dangerous, even when people stay six feet from one another. 

“We are 100% sure about this,” Lidia Morawska, a professor of atmospheric sciences and environmental engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, asserted. She made the case in an open letter to the WHO accusing the United Nations agency of failing to issue appropriate warnings about the risk. 

A total of 239 researchers from 32 countries have reportedly signed the letter, which was expected to be published next week in a scientific journal. 

In interviews, the experts have pointed out that aerosol transmission appeared to be the only way to explain several super-spreading events like the infection of diners at a restaurant in China who sat at separate tables and of choir members in Washington who took precautions during a rehearsal. 

The WHO officials were reported to have acknowledged that the virus could be transmitted through aerosols but, according to them, it occured only during medical procedures such as intubation that can spew large quantities of the microscopic particles.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Rise in interior Sindh cases

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The interior districts of Sindh witnessed significant increase in COVID-19 daily infection rate on July 5, when the health authorities confirmed 2,222 new infections during the last 24 hours across the province, with 25 more relevant fatalities.

According to the health department data, as of July 5, Karachi contributed 1,030 (46%) new cases to the overall daily tally of cases, while 1,150 (57%) new cases were reported from the interior districts. 

Earlier, Karachi reported 91% of the total new infections of Sindh on June 26, against 80% new cases on June 22, which had reduced to 45% on June 25. 

According to the data, as of July 5, among the interior districts, Ghotki reported the maximum 293 COVID-19 new cases, followed by Sukkur (128), Kambar Shahdadkot (80), Shaheed Benazirabad (75) and Dadu (73). 

The breakdown of other districts who reported new cases remained as: Khairpur (61), Badin (57), Tando Mohammad Khan (54), Sanghar (51), Kashmore (50), Hyderabad (50), Larkana (48), Mirpurkhas (37), Tando Allahyar (36), Shikarpur (33), Jacobabad (15), Matiari (14), Jamshoro (11), Naushero Feroze (11), Thatta (6), Sujawal (5) and Umerkot (4). 

According to the health department’s summary, 21 patients died due to COVID-19 during the last 24 hours ending at 9 am on July 5, including 15 men and six women. Men’s ages ranged from 48 to 90 years, while that of women were from 61 to 89 years. 

Sukkur registered death of a man of 75 years and a woman of 60 years, while Sujawal and Ghotki reported demise of one man each, both aged 50 years. 

The summary further disclosed that 623 patients, out of 39,837 active cases, were in critical condition across the province. The overall tally of infections rose to 94,528 and fatalities to 1,526 for the province. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Sindh sub-office COVID-19 report, testing laboratories in the province conducted 10,669 tests for the virus on July 4, against their collective capacity for examining 13,850 samples a day.

The sub-office reported that the largest number of intensive care units (ICU) beds was in Karachi (273), with 19% vacancy on July 4, against 366 ICU beds available at various health centres across the province. The percentage of patients who are on ventilators was 26% in Karachi, 8% in Sukkur and 4% in Larkana.

In regard to distribution of high dependency units (HDU) beds in districts of Sindh as of July 4, the report said that there were total 1,134 beds, out of which the biggest number of HDU beds was in Karachi (816), with 63% vacancy. Overall the HDU capacity has further increased but the newly added are not fully functional and are expected to take occupancy soon, it was noted in the report.

As of July 4, Karachi’s East district had the highest number of fatalities (396), 26 percent of the total deaths in the province, followed by Karachi Central (276), Karachi South (235), Karachi West (148), Karachi Korangi (117), Karachi Malir (91), Hyderabad (46), Larkana (28) and other districts, according to the WHO report, which covered a period from March 10 to July 4, 2020.

COVID-19 turns a blessing for food home delivery in China

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

COVID-19 may not have entirely ruined the global economy but it has affected it badly. China, however, has witnessed rapid expansion in food delivery in its first half of 2020 as more people have opted to place online food orders amid the pandemic, according to a latest industry report.

Food delivery is estimated to account for about 20 percent of China's catering industry in 2020 so far, according to the report released by the Meituan Research Institute and the China Hospitality Association.

The report predicted that the market will continue to expand within the next three years to reach one trillion Yuan (about 142 billion U.S. dollars).

Affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, restaurants saw fewer dine-in customers and had heavy rent and payroll burdens, revealed a survey conducted by the Meituan Research Institute.

Many restaurants turned to food delivery to increase their income and tide over difficulties. Some 55 percent of the businesses surveyed said that they planned to develop their dine-in and delivery services equally in the future.

By the end of 2019, the number of food delivery consumers in China had reached 460 million, approximately half of the country's internet users.