Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Experts seek Islamabad declaration review

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A group of Pakistani physicians and microbiologists based in the country and abroad, in an open letter, have urged the religious leaders to review the agreement reached between government and ulema council, recently, in regard to the congregational prayers held in mosques and imambargahs, including those on Fridays and taraweeh in Ramadan.

According to the letter, though the 20-point consensus strategy for congregation during Ramadan the President of Pakistan declared on April 18, after consulting the religious scholars representing various schools of thought, stressed the preventive measures against COVID-19, including the social distancing principles, the experts in question have got strong reservations based on early observations. 

Professor Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, making the letter available online to PNFS, noted that the group of scientists were trying to highlight something that could not be given due care during the Islamabad consultation. 

The group was of the view that the Islamabad declaration related to congregation in mosques needs to be reviewed; it will go in the larger public health interest further if ulema take the previous position of only allowing up to five namazis in the mosques, which was ensured under the governmental guidelines about the containment of coronavirus infections in the country. 

It was mentioned in the appeal in question that indeed these were unprecedented times, not just for the Muslims of Pakistan but encompassing the whole humanity.

“We, as doctors, are at the helm of dealing with patients suffering from coronavirus, which can rapidly transform from a mild illness to a fatal disease and we feel that the agreement between government and ulema council was based on relatively robust principles. Our mosques are predominantly filled by people above the age of 50; quite a few videos in last 48 hours have surfaced demonstrating that more than 80% of the people attending for prayers were indeed above the age of 50, in fact mostly in their 60s, and 70s,” they explained. 

In the given conditions, as the doctors continues in their letter, there will be hardly any room to keep the foremost principle of preventing the spread of virus in the most vulnerable group. 

“With Ramadan approaching, we would understandably expect higher number of namazis attending the prayers.” 

Moreover, they observed that long taraveeh prayers and waiting times will lead to prolonged gatherings, which certainly will cause significant disorder, as the mosques practicing social distancing will only be able to accommodate 20-25% of the regular namazis. 

“Consequently, we won’t be surprised if issues other than spread of virus will also become prevalent around the territories of our mosques, most prominently the conflicts between worshipers, mosques management and law enforcement agencies.” 

The doctors feared that hospitals in Karachi have started experiencing a significant influx of corona positive patients. 

“We anticipate these numbers and resultant mortality to expand exponentially in next few days and as such the already health system will undeniably be in significant pressure.” 

The doctors also requested the government administration and business community to practice patience and keep the markets and non-essential shops continue to close and only home deliveries should be allowed. 

In the meantime, the Sindh Minister for Information and Religious Affairs in statement said that the clerics also believed that the lives of the people was important and he was confident that when once again the ulema would be requested to review their decision and ask people to offer their prayers at home during the lock down in the holy month of Ramadan, they would cooperate.

Coronavirus Update: Deaths toll rise unabated

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh reported five more deaths due to COVID-19 which is spreading fast across the province where, according to health authorities, 227 new cases of the lethal virus infection were also confirmed on April 20. According to health department’s data on coronavirus, the disease has spread to 27 districts including Kashmore and Mirpurkhas which reported for the first time any COVID-19 infection among their residents 

All the five deaths occurred at the public sector hospitals in Karachi, pushing the C0VID-19 death toll to 61 in the province. The ages of the five lately deceased patients was given as 65, 62, 45, 70 and 70 years, respectively, while a total 30 people lost their lives in last seven days.

Karachi, comprising of six districts, with its overall 1,690 infection cases, topped the districts infected with coronavirus in Sindh. Karachi reported 156 new cases, followed by Khairpur (33 new cases), Tando Mohammad Khan (8), Jacobabad (8), Hyderabad (7), Shaheed Benazirabad (6), Kashmore (4), Mirpurkhas (2), Larkana (2) and Badin (1). As per the official data, the district-wise total COVID-19 cases remained as Karachi (1,690), Sukkur (341), Hyderabad (204), Khairpur (138), Ghotki (120), Shaheed Benazirabad (65), Larkana (65), Tando Mohammad Khan (28), Naushehro Feroze (19), Sanghar (16), Jamshoro (13), Dadu (12), Jacobbad (11), Sujawal (7), Tando Allahyar (6), Thatta (5), Shikarpur (5), Badin (5), Tharparkar (4), Kashmore (4), Umerkot (2) and Mirpurkhas (2). 

In the meantime, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in a video message on April 20, updated that 2, 068 patients were under treatment, including 1,223 at their homes, 547 at isolation centres and 298 at different hospitals. Of the total COVID-19 infected persons, there were 2,065 men and 699 women. 

Sharing the corona data, the Chief Minister further said that 4,955 of the tableeghi jamat members were tested, out of which 658 were found positive, while the laboratory test results of 161 were awaited. 

The break-up of tableeghi jamat members mentioned Hyderabad (158), Jamshoro (10), Badin (2), Tando Mohammad Khan (13), Tando Allahyar (6), Thatta (3), Dadu (10), Sujawal (7), Mirpurkhas (4), Umerkot (1), Shaheed Benazirabad (4), Sanghar (14), Naushehro Feroze (19), Sukkur (67), Khairpur (114), Ghotki (116), Larkana (37), Kashmore (4), Jacobabad (8) and Shikarpur (3). 

About local transmission of virus at Karachi, it was disclosed that district South had produced maximum of 68 cases while East (65), Central (31), Korangi (23), West (5) and Malir (4) were also affected with the pandemic. 

The Chief Minister reckoned that the situation was far from ideal and required some strict and proactive measures to contain the coronavirus and stop its further.

Oil price nosedive to record low

By Syed Sajid Aziz, updating from USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

April 20, 2020 became historic day of sorts as the oil prices nosedived to the lowest-ever price in memory. It’s a forgettable day for the oil producing countries as the oil prices came crashing down to nearly $1 a barrel. 

Following the global slowdown due to coronavirus (COVID-19) there were speculations that oil prices will be dipping below $10 per barrel but, despite the shrinking demand, not many analysts could have predicted it going so low. 

There are reports coming out from Canada that a few oil blends have fallen into negative territory, meaning that the producers would have to pay to give their barrels away. 

It remained unclear at this point of time how long this oil crisis will continue leaving even the industry professionals amused by the turn of the events.

Chinese fresh graduate donates pocket money for Pakistani COVID-19 victims

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A Chinese fresh graduate lauded the Pakistani people, doctors, nurses and volunteers who are currently engaged in fighting pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19). She also donated masks, soaps and sanitizers to support the needy people of Pakistan in these hard times.

“My name is Jin Suo, a fresh graduate from North China University of Technology. I saw an article posted by Sami, a Pakistani student in Southeast University," she wrote in a letter. 

Through this letter Jin Suo disclosed that she had come to know about the current epidemic situation in Pakistan which she, very rightly, found as serious. 

“The people lack necessary protective equipment and daily necessities due to shortage. Enthusiastic friends, including myself, contacted Sami and sent some masks, antiseptics, wipes, sanitizers, alcohol sprays and soaps by fastest logistics route,” she stated, adding that Sami will send these items to Pakistan soon through Pakistan Embassy. 

"Dear friends! The Chinese people have experienced the peak of the epidemic situation last month, so I completely understand your suffering and condition now. The Chinese government has sent the medical experts to you while Chinese people are worried and concerned about your welfare and protection. We will never forget that Pakistan that raised medical supplies for China at the crucial time," Jin Suo recognized. 

She further stated that, as an ordinary citizen, she honestly did not have the ability to raise enough medical supplies for Pakistani people but she promised to share the message with more of her friends.  
“The limited supplies carry best wishes of Chinese people. From the experience of China, advising the Pakistani people to remain at home, open the windows often and go out less.

“Wash your hands frequently, make sure you eat well cooked food, and wear mask when going out to the crowded places, if possible, especially children and elderly people. Everything will be fine,” she prayed.

“In a word we will never forget the steady and everlasting friendship between China and Pakistan. We will do our best to support you. You have blessings from the bottom of our hearts. Protect and take care of yourself and let’s work together to fight this pandemic,” she concluded.

Oil price crashes worldwide, falls below $11

By Syed Sajid Aziz in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistani consumers are being robbed by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) since the deadly pandemic Coronavirus scare gripped the entire world in January this year. 

On April 20, oil prices showing its worst ever downfall since 1986, dropped to $11 dollar per barrel and yet no respite in days to come. 

The present regime in Pakistan has surprisingly stayed away by extending the price cushion to the end consumers except one-time reduction last month, ripping them off by billions of rupees. 

According to Bloomberg, oil plunged to the lowest level since 1986 as a deadly pandemic ravaging global economies threatens to erase an entire decade of demand growth, slashing thousands of jobs and wiping out hundreds of billions of dollars from company valuations. 

An interesting situation has emerged here in Maryland, USA that people loudly say that oil prices have become lower than mineral water in the market. 

“What the heck consumers would do about lowest oil prices for 34 years as they remained standstill in massive lockdowns here continuing for almost one month,” Syed Wahid Husain, Director, iDrive Driving Institute, remarked. 

Traders fled the May contract ahead of the expiration. Industrial and economic activity is grinding to a halt as governments around the globe extend shutdowns due to the swift spread of the coronavirus. 

Oil has faced its own knock-on effects with a market massively oversupplied and nowhere to put physical barrels. Despite the unprecedented output deal by OPEC and allied members a week ago to curb supply, it’s become too little too late in the face of pandemic lockdowns reducing global crude demand by about a third.

“There is little to prevent the physical market from the further acute downside path over the near term,” Michael Tran, Managing Director of global energy strategy at the RBC Capital Markets, observed.

“Refiners are rejecting barrels at a historic pace and with US storage levels sprinting to the brim, market forces will inflict further pain until either we hit rock bottom, or COVID clears, whichever comes first, but it looks like the former,” he added. 

Since the start of the year, oil prices have fallen by more than 80% or $50 a barrel after the compounding impacts of the coronavirus and a breakdown in the original OPEC agreement. 

With no immediate end in sight and producers around the world continuing to pump, that’s causing a fire-sale among traders who don’t have access to storage. 

There are signs of weakness everywhere. Buyers in Texas are offering as little as $2 a barrel for some oil streams, raising the possibility that producers may soon have to pay to have crude taken off their hands. 

The spread between the nearest two contracts for the U.S. benchmark has fallen to its weakest level on record. In Asia, bankers are increasingly reluctant to give commodity traders the credit to survive as lenders grow ever more fearful about the risk of a catastrophic default.