Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh spikes again

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh health department data, released on May 18, showed that COVID-19 infections were rising in the province again, just days after the province eased its lockdown restrictions. 

Karachi division, which reported on average 552 new infection per day during the last week (May 11 to 17) and 437 cases in the preceding week, recorded 733 new cases on the first day of the third week, which can also be attributed to the second highest increase of 864 cases in the provincial tally of new coronavirus infections on May 18.

Sindh’s all days’ highest was witnessed on May 9 when the province generated overall 1,080 news cases, including 691 in Karachi. 

A study of the COVID-19 data pertaining to Sindh revealed that the province had been showing new cases gradually on decrease after May 8. On average the province has reported 701 cases per day since May 9. 

Among districts of Karachi, according to an official report updated on May 18, South housed the maximum 2,812 COVID-19 patients, followed by East (2,775 patients), Central (2,204), Malir (1,807), West (1,437) and Korangi (1,159). 

On May 18, Sindh had 10,485 COVID-19 infected people in quarantine, while another 1,406 in hospitals, including 1296 clinically stable, 83 critically ill but not utilizing ventilators and 31 using ventilators.

A keen observer said that number of cases could increase further in the coming days, due to Youm-e-Ali congregation, Eid holidays and ease in COVID-19 restrictions and reduced social distancing, provided the authorities ensured the existing level of testing. 

In the meantime, three more patients died of COVID-19 in Karachi, including one man aged 40 years and two women aged 55 and 48 respectively raising the tally of coronavirus related death to 234 for the megapolis and 280 for the province. 

Besides new COVID-19 cases of Karachi, Ghotki reported 31 new cases, followed by Hyderabad (30), Larkana (21), Sukkur (17), Kambar Shahdadkot (7), Shikarpur (7), Kashmore (5), Thatta (5), Naushehro Feroz (2) and Matiari (2) while Jacobabad, Badin, Shaheed Benazirabad and Khairpur reported one case each. 

As many as 14 testing laboratories, out of 20, tested 4,679 samples from suspected people, taking the number of tests conducted to 127,573 in the province so far. Sindh has tested 17241 people positive for COVID-19.

Pakistani students arrive from Wuhan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A special PIA flight onboard 250 Pakistani students from Wuhan, China, has arrived Islamabad on May 18. 

A large number of relatives of these students were present at the airport to welcome their near and dear ones.  
According to an official deputed at the airport, all the students will be required undergo medical checkup. Those found negative will be allowed to leave while hotel arrangements have been for others.

Pakistan struggling with COVID-19, locust swarm challenges

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Presently the infected patients of life threatening COVID-19 figure has crossed forty thousand all over the country and the death toll spiking every passing day at the same time, the country is also faced with locust swarm attack that can threaten food security. 

The country's main food-producing pockets have been haunted by a plague of locust swarms which are sweeping green fields with their devastating instinct heavily. 

The locusts has imposed a loss of 15 percent to the winter-sown crops last year amounting to at least 100 billion rupees (around 625.7 million US dollars), with fears that the damage would be huge if the next generation hatched, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said quoting Food Security Ministry. 

It may be recalled that the Chinese government is helping Pakistan both in terms for provision of medicines, equipments as well as experts to cope with the situation. 

In a recent report, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has warned of a huge level locust invasion in Pakistan if it is not controlled efficiently because locust breeding is taking place at 38 percent of the country's total area supported by suitable weather. 

The report added that the locust attacks could cause 817 billion rupees (around 5.1 billion US dollars) loss to Pakistan's agriculture production in 2020, which would turn obnoxious to its fragile economy.
Earlier in January, the Pakistani government imposed a national emergency on locust control. Many small farmers in district Chakwal were spraying their fields helplessly with manual backpack sprayer machine, trying to kill locusts which had damaged over 20 percent of green gram crop in one-night posing a big issue to his income. 

A 21-year-old young farmer told Xinhua that the locust swarm triggered panic among villagers as their crop was fine the previous evening but a lot of leaves had been eaten up a day later. 

They feared that if the situation prevails it would finish all cash crops, animals' fodders and fruits like it did with wheat crop in southern Sindh province.

"Last night, we sprayed and it had little result, then we repeated in the morning and it is a little effective. We are spraying but they keep moving here and there to eat and remain in the same area," the young farmer, requesting the local agriculture department to arrange an extensive spray to control the insect which has been playing havoc with crops across Pakistan since last year, remarked. 

The desert locust plague affected Pakistan's southern Sindh province last year before moving to the rest parts of the country. The Ministry of National Food Security and Plant Protection and other departments all came up with a response to the fly attacks. 

The Assistant Director of Agriculture Pest Warning in Chakwal, Muhammad Riaz, told Xinhua that the swarm scattered in two groups had affected around 400 acres crops in less than 48 hours, posing a big threat to crops in the area. 

"It is a prominent threat and it has spread like a virus because it has already reached to 15 districts in Punjab province. Another dangerous thing is that now the temperature is increasing and their eggs will be hatched and their population will increase manifolds," the official said. 

To cope with the threatening situation, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has planned to spray 500,000 hector of land.

Three Chinese COVID-19 vaccines in second phase of clinical trials

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Three COVID-19 vaccines have entered second phase of clinical trials in Beijing, a municipal health official on May 18. Xu Qiang, head of the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, disclosed, adding that Beijing has arranged 21 science and technology projects in response to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Five innovative drugs have been approved for clinical trials, and all of them have entered phase II clinical studies, he said at a routine press conference on COVID-19 prevention and control. 

According to a three-year action plan on strengthening the emergency management system for public health security in the capital (2020-2022), Xu revealed that Beijing will establish a linkage mechanism for prevention, clinical practice, scientific research, treatment and project emergency approval. 

Beijing plans to accelerate the research and development of diagnostic reagents, drugs, vaccines and medical equipment, and support pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturers in expanding their capacity to meet demands. They will also improve the layout of biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) labs. 

Xu further said that Beijing will strengthen the supportive role of new technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things in epidemic monitoring and analysis, virus tracing, prevention, control and treatment.

Pakistani students fly home from Wuhan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

There were waves of jubilation and celebration among the parents and relatives of the Pakistani students when they saw a twitter message from Ambassador Naghmana Hashim stating that a batch of Pakistani students had left Wuhan for Pakistan on May 18.

On board the national flag carrier PIA special flight arranged by the government, as many as 274 students left for Islamabad. 

“For our family, we feel today is our Eid,” the old mother of one of the students remarked while having tears in her eyes. 

She thanked the officials of the Pakistan embassy in Beijing as well as the foreign office and all those who took keen interest in enabling these students to return Pakistan before Eid. 

When contacted, an old mother with big smile on her face, said that he is very thankful to Almighty Allah as her son is returning home with good and sound health. 

“These students stood by China and braved the peak of COVID-19,” Ambassador Naghaman Hashmi stated while referring to Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus. 

On behalf of the Pakistan government, she wholeheartedly expressed her gratitude to the Chinese authorities by saying: “Thanks to China for looking after them (students) like their own”.

Chinese President replies to Pakistani students, encourages them

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, wrote back to Pakistani students studying in Beijing and encouraged them to promote youth exchanges and understanding.

China welcomes outstanding young people from around the world to study in China, and encourages them to promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and their home countries, President Xi remarked in his letter on May 17.  
According to the state media, President Xi said that the Chinese government, as well as universities and schools, were always concerned about the safety and health of overseas students having offered to help meet students' needs in their daily lives, epidemic prevention and medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Chinese government treats foreigners and locals equally, President Xi stressed and the focus has been on saving lives. 

There are currently 52 Pakistani students studying at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing and 49 of them are pursuing PhD or post-graduate degrees. 

Earlier, the students wrote a letter to President Xi expressing gratitude for the support and help they had received from the university. They expressed their desire to devote themselves to the construction of the Belt and Road after graduation and contribute to the Pakistan-China friendship. 

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of Chinese foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, while replying to a question said that President Xi Jinping, in his reply to the letter, stated that they had learned a wealth of knowledge and made a lot of Chinese friends since they came to study in China. 

“I am pleased with your achievements. As you can feel, after the outbreak of the New Coronary Pneumonia, the Chinese government and educational institutions have always been concerned about the safety and health of foreign students studying in China, and have provided with all-round help. For the supremacy of life, whether it is Chinese or foreign personnel in China, the Chinese government and the Chinese people treat and care them equally,” the President observed.

“I learned that during the fight against the epidemic many foreign students cheered for the Chinese people through various means. See the truth in trouble. China will continue to provide all kinds of assistance to all foreign students in China,” he wrote, adding that China welcomed outstanding young people from all over the world to study in China. 

He hoped that the students will learn more about China and talk to the world about what they have seen, communicate with the Chinese youth, work with young people from all over the world, and work together to promote people-to-people communication and build humanity.