Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Private schools seek interest free loan for surival

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association Sindh (APSMAS), Syed Tariq Shah, who is also Secretary General of the National Educational Council Pakistan (NECP), fears closure of privately-run educational institutions if parents do not pay tuition fee.

In a statement issued in Karachi on March 31, he also demanded of the federal government to provide interest free loans to private educational institutions in order to enable them to overcome the current crises by temporarily meeting their expenditures. 

He appealed to parents to pay tuition fee regularly every month so that private institutions would not suffer badly and would survive in such crisis situation. 

He didn't mince words in stating that it would be very difficult for the private educational institutes to survive in such crisis situations and not only there would be possibility of unemployment of staff but also the future of millions of students could be at risk because tuition fee is the only source of income for institutions and the revenue collected through the tuition fee is being used to pay staff’s salaries, building rent, utility bills and government taxes. 

Tariq Shah advised the private school administrations to provide a payment solution in terms of easy installments for those parents who are unable to pay tuition fees on a monthly basis due to severe economic constraints. 

While appreciating the measures taken by the government to deal with Coronavirus (COVID-19), he stated that private institutes were supporting the government in every step taken and desire them to focus solely on the eradication of the virus and treatment of its victims so that the pandemic could be controlled in Pakistan including Sindh and normal routine life would be resumed soon. 

He pointed out that the private education sector was actively supporting the government to upgrade the standard of education and literacy rate by providing quality education. 

“The private institutions are not only the source of employment for millions of people but also paying a huge amount of revenue to government as taxes, therefore if these institutions would be closed, then not only the future of students will be at risk, thousands of staff will be unemployed as well as government will not get revenue in terms of tax which would result in new educational crisis,” Tariq Shah warned.

Government urged to let private schools administration work

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The All Private Schools Management Association Sindh (APSMAS) has urged the provincial to allow the schools to open their offices to carry out administrative functions. In a tweet on April 1, 

Syed Tariq Shah, Chairman, APSMAS, has appealed to the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, to let the schools open for administrative matters. 

“Appeal from Govt of Sindh. Allow schools to open office for admin matters. Only source of fund for schools is fee collection as we have to pay salaries, building rent, govt taxes and utilities. We request Honourable CM Murad Ali Shah, Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Murtaza Wahab,” he tweeted. 

Tariq Shah, who is also Secretary General of the National Educational Council Pakistan (NECP), in a statement the other day, had drawn the attention of the government about this matter too. 

While requesting parents to pay tuition fee regularly every month so that private institutions would not suffer badly and would survive in such crisis, he also demanded of the federal government to provide interest free loans to private educational institutions in order to enable them to overcome the precarious situation by temporarily meeting their expenditures.

Coronavirus: Indigenous research generates concerns

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The release of details of a ‘half-done’ study by a group of scientists at the University of Karachi, claiming that their analysis of the whole genome sequence of coronavirus will be helpful in decision making at national level for the use of future therapeutic options and vaccinations, has generated concerns among experts. 

A press release of the university quoted Prof M Iqbal Choudhary, Director of Director of International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), saying this was the first indigenously sequenced whole genome of Coronavirus from Pakistan. 

“Analysis of the sequence revealed nine mutations in the different regions of genome, as compared to the sequence reported from Wuhan, China,” where the virus originated three months back.

“Mutation is change which appears in the DNA of all organisms and viruses, Dr Choudhary said, adding that comparison with genomes from other parts of the world revealed that virus examined at Jamil-ur-Rahman Center for Genome Research was more closely related to the virus from China, the point from where the pandemic was started. 

A day earlier, a senior scientist from the University had claimed that the virus was different than the one in Wuhan and was less harmful, said a scientist requesting secrecy. 

The technique that allows researchers to read and decipher the genetic information found in the DNA of anything from bacteria to plants to animals is called genomic sequencing. 

"In pandemic it becomes more important to monitor the way, rate and nature of mutations which may have impact on effectiveness of future therapies and vaccinations," the ICCBS director said while recommending that more genomes from Pakistani patients were sequenced to understand the full spectrum of genetic variations, and the way the virus was evolving here.

Interestingly, the research details did not mention the age, gender and place of treatment of the patient from whom the RNA was drawn for the scientific research at the KU facility in question. 

It was claimed in the press release that the genome sequencing of Coronavirus collected from a local patient having a travel history was complete now. 

An enquiry conducted by this scribe in the matter revealed that the sample was drawn from a child belonging to a locally infected cluster of people. 

“The subject in question has never visited abroad,” claimed a source privy to the handling of the oropharyngeal swab specimen obtained for genome sequence at a public sector medical university.

In the meantime, experts have termed the development a premature assessment, rather a ridiculous move as the KU Centre needed to seek more such samples from different hospitals. 

They are also silent about the in question traveler's exact place of visit. “Why does not the solitary scientist in question interact with experts related to the subject?” “We need to apply our experts' brain and support as well along with the machines”, said a keen observer, adding that efforts should be made to ensure protection and treatment out of the available resources. 

Meanwhile a senior microbiologist and pathologists at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Prof M Saeed Khan, in a television interview, said that the research details pertained to a collaborative study undertaken by a KU centre and Dow university, but it was difficult to draw any conclusion about the behaviour of the virus at this stage, particularly when the human genetic in the country is different from other parts of the world. 

“The virus under study was isolated by DUHS scientists from among a sizeable number of Coronavirus patients, while it is anticipated that research would move out of the initial stage,” he added.

First Coronavirus treatment in Pakistan recalled

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Admitting the first COVID-19 infected patient of the country at the privately run Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in Karachi over a month back was not any cumbersome action by its team of doctors, according to a communication of the hospital on March 31, when the overall tally of corona positive patients raised to 1,938, with 26 deaths, for the country.

Pakistan’s first case of Coronavirus infection, a 22-year-old, presented at the hospital on February 26 as he felt unwell and wanted to be tested for corona. 

“Although he had COVID symptoms, he seemed healthy and calm,” Dr Faisal Mahmood of AKU Infectious diseases department recalled. 

According to him, at a time when spread of the virus in many of the countries had become inevitable, he too was anticipating a healthcare emergency in Pakistan and as such he and his colleagues rapidly assessed the preparedness position and started coordinating with the Sindh and federal governments. 

The health authorities confirmed its two maiden Coronavirus cases on February 26. The youth of Karachi in question, a student of the University of Karachi, had a history of travelling from February 6 to 19 in a group of 28 people to Iran, which was already in the grip of the in question virus, which originated from Wuhan city of China in the mid-December 2019.

“Once he (the KU student) tested positive, we admitted him immediately,” Dr Faisal Mahmood further said that since he and his team members were all prepared to deal with local corona patients, “it was an easy decision for the team: isolate him and go for supportive treatment.” 

Not giving the in question patient’s stay at the hospital, the AKUH communication said that the man soon recovered. 

“It was a memorable day for the patient, his family and the healthcare team when he was discharged from the hospital,” Dr Faisal Mahmood added. “He is now doing well, talking to the media, and spreading the message that being COVID positive is not a death sentence. You can get well.” 

Referring to the increased number of corona cases in the country, Dr Faisal Mahmood remarked that this was not a fight that could be won through health workers or government measures only. 

“This is a fight that every individual has to fight for themselves: reduce the risk of getting infected to reduce the chance of others getting infected from you to win the war against the virus going viral,” he remarked. 

According to AKUH, the father of the patients had written a letter of appreciation to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, praising the provincial government for its timely response and the AKUH for the excellent care. 

When contacted, a hospital’s personnel did not reveal the cost of the treatment in question and by whom it was borne, but mentioned that majority of the Coronavirus cases were being referred to the hospital by the Sindh government as their sponsor, while the remaining, who report to the hospital for treatment, either pay the cost by themselves or they are managed through the welfare fund of the hospital. 

According to official data, there were as many as 1,938 confirmed COVID-19 patients, including 676 each in Punjab and Sindh. Sindh, where a total 51 patients have recovered from Coronavirus, recorded 49 new infections, all from Hyderabad involving tableeghi jamat members, while total death tally reached to eight. 

The Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Pechuho confirmed two more deaths on March 31. She revealed that the deceased persons were aged 70 and 74 years respectively.

Jang Group’s chairman passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Mir Javed Rahman, the Chairman of the Jang Group, the largest media house of Pakistan, breathed his last, after a protracted illness, at Karachi’s South City Hospital on March 31. 

He was being treated for lung cancer while he was also reported to have suffered a heart attack a few days ago. He was 72. 

The eldest son of the late Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, the founder of the Jang Group, he was the printer and publisher of a number of popular newspapers and magazines like Jang, Akhbar-e-Jahan and MAG. 

The Jang Group, which also owns Geo Television network, had abruptly closed down two of the leading evening newspapers of the country, Daily News and Awam, about a year ago. 

Mir Javed’s younger brother, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, is acclaimed as a media tycoon, who is currently under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). 

Meanwhile the death of Mir Javed Rahman has been condoled by the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, besides the key opposition leaders in the National Assembly, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.