Saturday, April 18, 2020

China tells US to mind own business, concentrate on fighting COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China has urged the United States (US) to mind its own business and concentrate more on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, made these remarks after the US Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, had accused China, during a recent interview, regarding lacking transparency on COVID-19 and misleading the world from the beginning of the outbreak. 

"If the US has been misled or not given enough information in the early stages of the pandemic, why did the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue warnings on January 15?" Zhao questioned at the daily news briefing in Beijing. 

"Why did the US announce the closure of its consulate general in Wuhan on Jan 25 and evacuate its personnel? And why did the US shut its borders to all Chinese nationals and foreigners that had been to China in the past 14 days on Feb 2?" he asked further.

“Smear and stigmatization will not cover the facts and shifting blame will not kill the virus, while cooperation and solidarity is the only way to defeat the pandemic,” Zhao stated. 

“China urges the US to mind its own business and focus more on defeating the virus and reviving its economy,” he advised. 

Also on April 17, when responding to criticism and doubts from leaders of France and the United Kingdom in terms of China's dealing with the virus, Zhao had clarified that it’s not helpful to judge different political systems at present.

“The urgent task for all countries is to show solidarity to defeat the pandemic and save lives,” he added. 

“After the outbreak of the virus, the leaders of China and France have held three telephone conversations to express mutual support,” Zhao said. 

“The leaders and foreign ministers from China and the UK have also discussed cooperation in combating the pandemic during their phone calls,” he said. 

“China is willing to work with the international community to uphold multilateralism and strengthen international cooperation to jointly safeguard the health and security of mankind,” he stressed.

Lady police officers to patrol Karachi roads

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The people of Karachi will soon see lady police officers patrolling on bikes on city roads. 

The training for lady police officers in use of weapons and bike riding were almost completed, a senior police officer revealed in a television interview. 

He pointed out that the launch of patrolling by lady police officers had to be delayed because of the ongoing lockdown in the city in order to contain the spreading of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The lady police officers expressed full confidence to participate with their male colleagues in curbing street crimes, maintaining law and order and helping creating conducive environment for the citizens in their daily affairs. 

"We have got training of sophisticated police weapons that is more difficult for us than bike riding training" one of the lady police officers thought.

“A few of the trainee officers suffered minor injuries but their confidence was unshakable,” one of the senior police officers asserted.

Doctors bodies criticize Sindh government

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The Karachi-based doctors severely criticized the Sindh government for what described as ignoring medical and technical experts from the public sector health settings in the making and execution of policies to fight COVID-19.

Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on April 17, the leaders from doctors’ community said that the government had no understanding of the corona severity and was taking ad-hoc measures to tackle the challenges posed by coronavirus in the health sector. 

The senior office bearers of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) were of the view that there was no openness to governmental initiatives right from supply of corona testing kits and equipment to isolation and intensive care provisions. 

The leaders of the doctors community demanded from the Sindh government to involve representatives from public sector universities and hospitals besides the medical organizations engaged in fighting the deadly disease, saying there was no or minimal representation and involvement of technocrats, doctors’ associations at government level. 

“We from the PIMA Karachi, the PMA and the YDA are willing to collaborate with government in this critical time,” they offered. 

Those who spoke at the press conference included Prof Muhammad Azeemuddin, President PIMA Karachi, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Secretary General, PMA (central), Dr M Omer Sultan, Chairman YDA Sindh, Dr Atif Hafiz Siddiqui, Dr Pir Manzoor, Prof Misbahul Aziz, and others. 

They highlighted some key challenges and issues that may worsen the situation if, according to them, the competent authorities do not take action in time. The public sector hospitals lack personal protecting equipment (PPE) as government was not ready to divert the resources to them, they claimed, adding doctors are contracting infection due to lack of PPEs. 

“Indifferent attitude of private hospitals in equipping their employees with necessary PPEs is tantamount to putting healthcare providers at risk,” they regretted. 

The speakers also stressed the need for massive screening and testing of doctors and other population at the high risk of the pandemic. “Underutilization of the Field isolation facility at Karachi Expo Centre needs a revisit for optimum usage,“ they suggested. 

The doctors demanded strict enforcement of lockdown and prevention of congregations of all sorts to contain the rapid spread of COVID–19. 

Coming to the hospitals’ operation, the senior doctors observed that opening of outpatient departments in both public and private sectors without proper SOPs may lead to sudden increase in corona cases. 

“Proper sanitization and decontamination of COVID wards in public hospitals was also required by the doctors performing duties,” they added.

Coronavirus Update: 236 new cases in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh health authorities confirmed another 236 new coronavirus cases across the province, with two new deaths at Karachi, on April 17, taking the overall infection tally to 2,217 in the province. According to official data, Khairpur, which reported its first 14 coronavirus positive cases on April 8 and remained static in terms of cases till April 16, drew the attention on April 17 again for reporting 73 new cases. On the other hand, Umerkot was included in the list of coronavirus reporting districts of Sindh with a new positive case.

Karachi division remained on the top of list with 123 new cases and overall 1,290 cases, with 43 deaths. The city reported yet another two deaths, both men aged 77 and 53 years respectively, due to the virus, while eight more recovered the disease on April 17. 

The overall infection rate in Sindh remained 10.42 percent while the virus has spread in 23 districts while the district wise breakdown of cases was: Karachi (1,290), Sukkur reporting no new case (326), Hyderabad reporting no new case (197), Ghotki (126), Shaheed Benazirabad reporting no new cases (89), Khairpur (87), Tando Mohammad Khan (19), Larkana reporting no new cases (16), Naushehro Feroze (15), Sanghar (15), Dadu with no new case (11), Sujawal (9), Jamshoro with no new case (4), Badin (4), Tando Allahyar with no new case (4), Shikarpur with no new case (3), Umerkot (1) and Jacobabad with no new case (1). 

During the day, a coronavirus patient was discharged from the Karachi Expo Centre corona field hospital after he recovered from the diseases. 

In the meantime, the Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho directed the officers concerned to place in quarantine about 130 Pakistanis who returned via a flight from Oman on April 17. Earlier, the health officers collected samples from the passenger for coronavirus test at Karachi airport. 

The minister said that those testing positive will be retained for treatment under the arrangement of the health department, while the rest clearing the test will be provided with transports to continue their journey to upcountry.

Government hospitals’ personnel to be trained for COVID-19 handling

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The medicine experts and intensive care lead physicians from a private medical university will provide free of cost training and telephonic consultations to doctors and paramedical staff handling COVID-19 cases in the government hospitals from April 20.

To this effect, senior representatives of the Sindh Health department and the Aga Khan University signed two memorandums of understanding in the presence of Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, at the Sindh Secretariat on April 17. 

The two parties agreed to collaborate for improvement of COVID-19 critical care delivery in the public sector hospitals.

“Besides capacity building, government healthcare professionals will avail the University’s tele-consultation services on critical cares issues like ventilator management of coronavirus patients,” a government official stated. 

The Secretary Health to the Government of Sindh, Zahid Abbasi, AKU Medical College Dean, Dr Adil Haider, and AKUH’s interim chief executive officer, Shagufta Hassan, Chief Technical Advisor to Health Secretary, Dr Aijaz Khanzada, among others, attended the MoU signing event. 

Dr Azra Pechuho disclosed that the health department had signed the MoUs with the AKU as its doctors and nurses have handled the maximum number of COVID-19 patients and now were in a position to mentor the public sector health providers. 

“The AKU side will start training our doctors concerned from April 20 who, later as trainers, will impart training to other doctors and related staffs in district health settings,” the provincial health minister observed. 

She further said that if the government doctors and paramedics find any difficulty while working in the COVID-19 intensive care facilities they could take online advices from AKU experts. 

The AKU CEO, Shagufta Hassan, revealed that the Sindh government had asked the AKU to provide technical assistance to the COVID-19 ICU units at its 12 hospitals. 

“Our lead physicians in critical care issues and relevant experts will provide a free-of-cost training to government doctors and paramedics,” she added. The AKU Dean, Dr Adil Haider, said that the doctors at government hospitals may also avail teleconsultation for critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

“The AKU experts will help manage care with doctors in Sindh as well as offer advanced training for nurses on treatment of critically ill patients and safety of healthcare workers,” the government handout said.

500 million Yuan vouchers to be disbursed in Wuhan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Starting from April 19, the residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan, hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, will get vouchers to help boost their consumption. 

The local administration announced on April 17 that it will hand out vouchers worth 500 million Yuan ($70.6 USD) among all people living in Wuhan. 

Irrespective of local or non-locals, the residents can apply and use the vouchers, a move aimed to support the operation resumption in commercial, trade, cultural and tourism sectors. Around 18 million Yuan of the vouchers will be earmarked for the registered impoverished people in the city.

The municipal government will hand out the vouchers weekly via the online platforms of Alibaba, Meituan Dianping and Tencent. 

The above three E-commerce giants will also offer their own coupons worth a total of 1.8 billion Yuan, which may be used together with the government-issued vouchers. 

The first stage of distribution will be from April 19 to May 31, and the second stage from June 1 to July 31. 

The consumers will be able to use the vouchers for offline payments in restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and cultural and tourist sites. At the first stage, they can only use them when their actual expenses reach or exceed three times the voucher value. 

A survey conducted by Alipay showed that over 10 million businesses have benefited from the nationwide voucher campaigns, with over 90 percent of them being micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

SIUT coronavirus clinic detects 207 cases

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), Karachi, has detected 207 coronavirus positive cases among people who attended its coronavirus clinic commenced operations on March 18.

A SIUT communication on April 17 gave to understand that the infection rate among the people screened and tested at the clinic was over 23 percent in comparison to provincial average rate of 10-12 percent. 

Moreover, the rate of corona serious patients was also found on the higher side at the SIUT. Of these 5,800 patients 884 were tested for coronavirus while 207 patients were found positive. 

“The majority was advised for home isolation,” the communication added, saying the number of serious corona cases was increasing with the passage of time. 

The SIUT is undertaking screening, testing and treatment of the affected population through its corona clinic. 

“The number of people arriving at the clinic is increasing with time. In the last single day 251 patients attended the clinic. Up till now 50 patients were admitted in the SIUT isolation ward on different times, out of which 15 sick patients who needed ventilator support were admitted in ICU,” it was revealed. 

However, according to SIUT, seven patients who completely recovered were discharged, while two patients lost their lives, the rest were still admitted in the ICU. 

The SIUT has also established coronavirus helpline which works on 24-hour basis and so far provided guidance to 554 callers. The SIUT helpline number is 021-99215469.

China playing vital role in debt service suspension for developing countries

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China has been played a pivotal role in suspension of debt services of over 70 countries, including Pakistan, that would help stem out their economy badly hit by the fatal coronavirus (COVID-19).

“China will, in accordance with the consensus of the G20 on debt relief, help the poorest countries concentrate their efforts on fighting the epidemic and supporting economic and social development,” the foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, was quoted as saying in the regular media briefing. 

The G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, during their online virtual meeting on April 15, had focused on overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts. 

Addressing debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries due to the pandemic, G-20 countries support a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries that request forbearance. 

The Minister of Finance of China, Liu Kun, stated during the conference that China supported Debt Service Suspension Initiative for Poorest Countries and appreciated the G20 consensus for the detailed plan. 

Meanwhile, China also vowed to make contributions to this initiative and appeal to multilateral development banks to participate in it as soon as possible. 

It was agreed that both principal repayments and interest payments will be suspended for over 70 countries, starting on May 1, 2020 until the end of 2020. They are all least developed countries as defined by the UN and IDA-countries current on debt service.

Quarantine facilities to be established in all major cities

Pakistan News & Features Services

A meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre, held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan, on April 16, decided to establish quarantine facilities in all major cities across the country to treat COVID-19 patients. The meeting was convened to review measures to cope with the disease during the upcoming holy month of Ramazan.

The Prime Minister, in an effort to meeting the challenge, directed to build a facility in every major city of the country on the lines of a 250-bed quarantine centre in Islamabad, established by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).

The Prime Minister was reported to have expressed grave concerns over media reports which claimed the deaths of a few hundred people in just one hospital of Karachi recently.
He advised the concerned authorities to collect and compile the area-wise report of the disease with accuracy in order to let the policy-makers, doctors and others plan and work accordingly.

Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, updated the meeting about the available tracking, testing and quarantine facilities besides sharing the statistical details of the pandemic in Pakistan.

Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), apprised the meeting about arrangements being made for distribution of medical equipment to hospitals handling coronavirus cases.

Tighter lockdown may follow

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh chief minister's law adviser, Murtaza Wahab, expressed concerns as the overall corona infection rate of 10.66% in the province jumped to around 12.5% on April 16, which was alarming. 

“We need to adhere to the preventive measures seriously,” he remarked on a television channel, adding that the Sindh government understood that there was a need to enforce the lockdown in a more stringent and effective manner. 

On the other hand, the former vice-chancellor of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Prof Dr Masood Hameed Khan, in a video message, feared that the coronavirus outbreak may worsen after April 26 in the country. 

He was referring to the disease pattern in countries like the United States and other European countries said that the ongoing outbreak in the country may turn more dangerous from April 26 May 10. 

During this alarming period the destruction caused by COVID-19 can create a grave situation, he warned, adding that while the government was expected to take further stringent measures, people across the country should also help prevent the virus from spreading any further.

Publishers join UNESCO’s #LearningNeverStops coalition

Pakistan News & Features Services

The International Publishers Association (IPA) has joined UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition to support countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk. 

The education systems around the world have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic with an estimated 1.5 billion pupils thought to be unable to go to school. While some of them have been able to adapt to continue their education from home, learning for many has been put on hold. 

Many educational publishers have come up with innovative online solutions but pupils, teachers and parents in some countries and regions have been looking for more work in this direction. 

The various stakeholders have taken the responsibility of working together to stop the health crisis and the undoubted economic crisis from becoming an educational crisis as well. 

International governmental and non-governmental organizations, media, private companies, civil society and non-profit organizations, networks and associations have quickly mobilized to support the coalition. 

The diverse list of coalition members will bring together expertise to build the missing links for education to continue remotely. 

The publishers are expected to be playing the key role in strengthening and enriching the content that will be brought to pupils learning away from their educational campuses.