Saturday, April 25, 2020

Trump may extend coronavirus social distancing guidelines

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

The United States (US) President, Donald Trump, on April 24, has hinted that his administration may extend its national social distancing guidelines until early in the summer or later. 

“We may, and we may go beyond that. We’re going to have to see where it is. I think people are going to know just out of common sense. At some point, we won’t have to do that. But until we feel safe, we’re going to be extending,” Trump observed at the White House press briefing. 

Trump’s remarks have come just a day after multiple White House apprehended that the US might still be fighting with the deadly coronavirus by the fall and winter, when the flu season kicks up. 

The coronavirus guidelines had first been shared in the middle of March, having been extended to the end of April. There are strong enough indications now that the federal guidance might be extended once more even though Trump and state leaders looked ahead to reopening the economy, having been devastated by the coronavirus and the preventive measures taken to contain it. 

Although the federal guidelines were not legally binding on states, many of whom implemented their own social distancing rules, they recommend severe restrictions on normal behaviors, such as eating out at restaurants and socializing in groups.

Lady doctors demand strict lockdown enforcement

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Taking the cue from their male colleagues in the profession, a group of female medical practitioners, on April 24, said that hospitals providing care to the coronavirus patients were not in a position to admit more such patients in view of shortage of intensive care units including the ventilators and relevant staff. 

Speaking at a media briefing at the Karachi Press Club, they said that the diseases crisis was overwhelming and solution lied in the lockdown, which needed to be strictly enforced by the government and seriously followed by the citizens. The speakers included Dr Safia Zafar, Dr Nusrat Shah, Dr Nighat Shah, Dr Razia Korejo and others. 

They reckoned that it was government’s prime duty to protect its citizen and implement preventive measures everywhere from markets to departmental stores and from playgrounds to religious centres. 

“All over the world it is seen that only these countries are free of disease or have very few patients who strictly did the lockdown from the discovery of first case in the community,” they remarked.

They pleaded that that the doctors were under enormous pressure as cases were on increase in Karachi and rest of the country. “Sometimes the doctors have to work without protective gears and other intensive care facilities while providing care to severely ill coronavirus patients,” they added and urged the people to listen to them and stay at home to avert the disease. 

“It’s very heartbreaking that some of our doctors, nurses and health workers have lost their lives and every day we go to hospital with fear of having positive test and thinking that some of us will die,” they regretted.

Coronavirus Update: Karachi endures lowest recovery rate

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh government data regarding COVID-19 outbreak in the province have revealed that only 307 (11.40%), out of 2,692 patients have recovered from the disease till April 24 in Karachi. 

To some observers, this recovery pace of COVID-19 patients at Karachi reflected two factors. Ether many of them were taking long time for recovery due to their poor medical conditions or their physicians took considerable time before starting any treatment in their cases while a majority of them were young patients.

They further remarked that the time taken for recovery in most of the cases was seven days, which could be prolonged to over one month depending on the severity of symptoms and other comorbidities and age of the patients. 

“The time in which a patient recovers after contracting the infection depends on how the disease progressed.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that about 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases globally were mild, which meant that these cases, which usually involved fever, cough and perhaps shortness of breath, recovered without much of an issue. 

“The younger, the patient with no other medical complaints, the greater could be the chances of quick recovery while some patients may not even be aware that they are sick.” 

A comparative study of the daily official reports pertaining to coronavirus suggested that there were a total 417 people having contracted the virus in Karachi, out of which 63 (15%) were declared recovered by April 5. Another district of Sindh housing major Covid-19 patients was Sukkur, where the rate of recovery was 21% on the same date. 

The Sindh Health department data released on April 24 revealed that the number of patients suffering corona was 243 at Hyderabad, 380 at Sukkur and 31 at Tando Mohammad Khan, out of which 161 (66%) recovered at Hyderabad, 279 (73%) at Sukkur and 15 (48%) at Tando Mohammad Khan. 

However, a source privy to the tracking and testing of coronavirus patients in the city doubted that the official data did not account the patients who have been receiving treatment at homes. 

In the meantime in his routine video message, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on April 24 said that coronavirus had claimed two more lives, raising the infection death toll in the province to 75, while 274 new cases were confirmed on the day, pushing Sindh’s coronavirus tally to 3,945. 

According to him, as many as 49 among the infected persons were in critical condition, including 15 those put on ventilators. 

He said that the total number of patients having recovered from the diseases in Sindh rose to 772 on April 24 as another 42 patients were sent home after recovery. Of the remaining under-treatment patients 1,893 have been isolated at home, 767 in isolation centres and 440 at hospitals, the Chief Minister stated. 

The Sindh Health department summary said that two coronavirus patients died at Karachi, a woman aged 85 years and a man aged 60 years, while 243 new COVID-19 cases were detected at Karachi. 

The other districts that reported new cases included Sukkur (14) Hyderabad (8) and Larkana (3), followed by Badin, Sanghar, Tando Allahyar, Khairpur, Kamber Shahdadkot and Umerkot which reported a case each. The overall coronavirus infection rate came as 11% for Sindh.

US President agrees to send ventilators to Pakistan, other developing countries

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

The United States (US) President, Donald Trump, on April 24, announced to send ventilators to three developing more countries after having promised to do the same to as many countries, including Pakistan.

In a series of tweets, Trump pledged ventilators for Ecuador, El Salvador and Indonesia after having committed the life-saving breathing equipment to Pakistan, Mexico and Russia to let these countries combat coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The US President had also expressed his willingness to supply ventilators to three European countries, Italy, Spain and the UK, where the pandemic had wreaked havoc during the last few weeks. 

There were also reports suggesting that the US officials were preparing to ship ventilators to Africa, in an effort to counter Chinese diplomatic initiatives. 

President Trump earlier disclosed that Pakistan had asked him to send ventilators for the victims of the coronavirus and he has agreed to do so. 

“Spoke with Pakistan; they would like to have some ventilators. We’re going to get them some ventilators,” he said, adding that all the leaders, he spoke to, were indebted to the US for solving the ventilator problem.

Chinese experts team, relief goods arrive Islamabad

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A plane onboard a group of medical experts and material, used to fight coronavirus (COVID-19), alongwith goods, has arrived Pakistan from China. 

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has provided the emergency anti-epidemic materials assistance to the Pakistan Army and dispatches an expert team, officials of the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad informed on April 24. 

In order to actively implement the important concept of building a community of human destiny advocated by President Xi Jinping, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has been vigorously participating in the domestic fight against the new coronary pneumonia epidemic while actively carrying out international cooperation in the fight against epidemics.

At the request of the Pakistani Army and, with the approval of the Central Military Commission, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army sent an Air Force aircraft to Islamabad on April 24 to provide emergency assistance to the Pakistani army for a number of emergency prevention and control materials needed by the Pakistani side. 

The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, General Nadeem, Chairman of the Pakistani Army Federation, and Lieutenant General Hamed, coordinator of the National Epidemic Prevention Command and Action Center greeted them upon arrival.

Trace & track system to be operational on April 25

Pakistan News & Features Services

"Consultations were held with chief secretaries and then health ministers during the meeting of the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad on April 24. The prime minister has given approval for the implementation of the trace and track system from April 25,” the Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, revealed. 

‘The apex body of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) will oversee the system but the provincial governments, information technology institutions, civil and military organizations will also be involved in the process,” he added. 

"This is a complete national response formed by the government though the provincial governments will be responsible mainly for the implementation of the system,” the minister elaborated.

Lockdown extended till May 9 in Pakistan

Pakistan News & Features Services

Pakistan, battling it out against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has extended the lockdown until May 9. Earlier it was scheduled to end on April 30.

The announcement in this regard was made by the Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, on April 24. 

The decision to extend the countrywide lockdown till May 9 was taken during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting held at the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad earlier in the day. 

The federal minister expressed the hope that if people practiced the prescribed safety precautions during the holy month of Ramadan, beginning on April 25, then it could allow business and other activities to inch towards normalcy. 

"However, God forbid, if we demonstrate irresponsibility, then we may have to impose more restrictions after Eid," he warned. 

He was of the opinion that Pakistanis generally had made a lot of changes to their social life during the past month or so ever the lockdown was imposed.

Wuhan’s landmark victory over COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19 in China’s Hubei province has achieved a landmark victory as no new confirmed infections or suspected cases for last 20 days as of April 23 were reported. 

Also all severe coronavirus patients in Wuhan have fully recovered. Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission, informed that as the last COVID-19 patient with severe symptoms was cured on April 24 and all cases in severe and critical condition in Wuhan had been cleared.

“The number of current confirmed cases in Hubei province, the region hardest hit by the epidemic in China, dropped under 50 for the first time on April 23. No new confirmed infections or suspected cases have been reported in the province for 20 consecutive days,” the Chinese official declared. 

The Chinese mainland reported six confirmed cases as of April 23, the lowest daily increase since the epidemic began, according to the National Health Commission.

Ambassador explains Chinese role in curbing COVID-19

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, attended the preparation and response plan of the new crown epidemic on April 24. According to the details shared by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Ambassador Yao Jing was invited to attend the Pakistan New Crown Outbreak Preparation and Response Plan (PPRP) on video conference.

The meeting, organized by the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister of Economic Affairs, Khasro Bakhtiar, Prime Minister’s Health Adviser Dr Zafar Mirza, Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, General Muhammad Afzal, WHO Director-General, Tan Desai besides the representatives of World Bank, United Nations, UNICEF, UNHCR, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and envoys from more than 20 countries. 

Besides China, envoys from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the European Union, Japan, and South Korea were also in attendance 

The Pakistani side explained the government’s plan to introduce a new crown epidemic PPRP, stating that it was inconsistent with the basic framework of the Strategic Preparation and Response Plan issued by WHO, which aims to strengthen Pakistan’s internal coordination, support epidemic monitoring and diagnosis, case management and infection prevention and control, increase grassroots participation in the community, and reduce morbidity and mortality. It is being hoped that the international community will pay attention to the situation of the epidemic and provide financial support and technical assistance for the prevention and control of virus in Pakistan. 

The WHO Director-General, Tan Desai, said that the challenge of the new crown epidemic was unprecedented and required united response of the international community. 

The WHO appreciated the efforts made by the Pakistani government and supported the Pakistani side in introducing relevant plans. This reflected the determination of the Pakistani government, the United Nations and various development partners to work together to respond to the epidemic, and it met the requirements of the United Nations sustainable development goals. 

The WHO pledged to continue providing strong support and assistance to the prevention and control of the Pakistani epidemic and reduce the impact of the epidemic on the population, especially the most vulnerable groups. 

Ambassador Yao said that the new coronary pneumonia epidemic posed a huge threat to human health and a huge challenge to global public health security. “As a responsible country in the international community, China actively supported international cooperation in epidemic prevention,” he stated. 

It was recalled that at the G-20 special leaders’ summit held recently, the Chinese President Xi Jinping had emphasized that what the international community needed the most was firm confidence, concerted efforts, and united response, comprehensively strengthened international cooperation, united and strong force to overcome the epidemic to win the fight against major infectious diseases.

It was pointed out that China remained willing to continue to work in an open, transparent and highly responsible manner, strengthen cooperation with the WHO and the international community, and contribute to maintaining global public health security. 

Ambassador Yao reiterated that China fully supported Pakistan’s fight against epidemics. President Xi held a phone conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan while President Dr Arif Alvi visited China last month, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a couple of telephonic conversations with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, emphasizing the stand of mutual support between China and Pakistan. 

The Chinese government and all sectors of the society have extended their helping hands, and have provided Pakistan with a large number of anti-epidemic materials such as test kits, masks, ventilators, protective equipment, medicines, and helped Pakistan establish temporary isolation hospitals. 

The Chinese experts also held a video conference with Pakistan, and China sent a medical expert group to share Chinese experience with Pakistan on epidemic prevention and control, monitoring and testing, and clinical treatment. 

China has, on a regular basis, praised the efforts of the Pakistani government to fight the epidemic and expressed its willingness to continue to provide Pakistan with assistance within its ability to jointly cope with the challenges of the epidemic. 

The representatives of other international organizations and diplomatic envoys of various countries in Pakistan stated that the new coronary pneumonia epidemic was a challenge faced by all mankind and they were willing to continue to provide support to Pakistan in fighting the epidemic through bilateral and multilateral channels.

Sindh to continue observing SOPs

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Following the demands and advices from the medical practitioners in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the Sindh Government, late on April 23 night, declared that it will continue observing the standard operating procedures (SOP) meant for mosques as usual to avert the congregational prayers, including those of Fridays and Ramadan nights.  

In a video message, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, declared that a stringent ‘lockdown’ as ordered earlier will be ensured on Friday from 12 noon to 3 pm, so that people did not participate in Friday prayers at mosques and they stayed at homes. 

Only the staff of mosques will be in a position to offer the Friday prayers, he added and said that worshippers, other than the mosque staff, will not be allowed to take part in taraweeh prayers during the Ramadan. 

He mentioned that, in this regard, he had also spoken to the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, who in consultation with ulema, had earlier formulated a 20-point consensus strategy for congregation during Ramadan. 

“The President was also of the view that the provinces were free to change the decision if the situation appeared to worsen,” he shared. 

The chief minister said that senior physicians as well as experts have been expressing their reservations over the proposed plan of relaxation in lockdown, having predicted that the next couple of weeks would be crucial in the context of corona spread and severity in the country.

He further said that actions have also been taken against the shopping malls found guilty of ignoring the standard operation procedures.

World Book Day 2020 celebration muted by COVID-19 lockdown

Pakistan News & Features Services

The World Book and Copyright Day, more commonly known as the World Book Day, having become one of the most significant dates in the scholastic circles, witnessed muted celebrations on April 23, 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown. 

The World Book Day was being celebrated with growing enthusiasm in Pakistan during the last few years as the various stakeholders took the responsibility of spreading awareness about reading, publishing and copyright. 

Larger number of universities and other educational institutions, besides governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as commercial entities had made a point to hold World Book Day awareness events like walks and seminars on April 23 in the recent past but this could not be possible due to the pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The UNESCO, alongwith the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry, publishers, booksellers and libraries, had been proactively involved in celebrating the World Book Day in a splendid manner. 

The momentum may have been lost at the moment for obvious reasons but it’s being hoped that these institutions will go an extra mile in meeting the challenge as the books will serve the purpose of a good companion during the days of the current forced break. Reaching out the masses, particularly youth, and facilitating them in acquiring books needs to be looked into.