Friday, May 22, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Sindh registers highest single-day death toll

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The number of people, who died after testing positive for coronavirus, rose to 336 in Sindh, as the health authorities confirmed an all days’ highest death toll of 20 at 8 am on May 21, with 960 new infections. 

Further, a study of the COVID-19 data related to Sindh revealed that the rates of new infections and deaths rose almost at the same pace. There was an increase of 430% in coronavirus death incidences, counted 78 on April 25, while new infection tally (4,232) increased by 470% during the same period of April 25 to May 21.

As of May 21, Sindh housed about 41% of the total COVID-19 positives cases of the country, while 32% of the country’s relevant deaths (1,037) had taken place in the province. 

The Sindh health department’s daily COVID summary disclosed that Sindh’s tally of positive cases was inching towards 20,000 as well. 

As many as 19,924 people tested positive for coronavirus till May 21, out of which 6,325 recovered, while 13,263 were still active patients, including 11,735 isolated at their homes. 

On May 21, Karachi reported 856 new infections, followed by Shikarpur (22), Hyderabad (17), Larkana (14), Kambar Shadadkot (9), Sukkur (9), Ghotki (7), Shaheed Benazirabad (3), Sanghar (3), Mirpurkhas (2), Jacobabad (2), while Jamshoro, Naushero Feroz, Sujawal and Dadu districts reported one new case each.

In all 16 patients were declared dead at Karachi hospitals, including 13 men, whose ages ranged from 31 to 75 years, and three women living in the age brackets of 42 to 68 years, pushing the Karachi COVID-19 death toll to 276. 

Another two men lost their lives in Larkana. They were aged 65 and 69 years respectively. Sukkur and Khairpur reported deaths of one man each, who were aged 65 and 80 years respectively. 

According to official data, as many as 276 patients have so far died at government and private hospitals across the province including Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (49), Dow University of Health Sciences, Ojha (49), Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (45), Aga Khan University Hospital (33), Indus Hospital, Korangi (30), Civil Hospital Karachi (23), Ziauddin Hospital (9), PNS Shifa (9), Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (9), Gambat Institute of Medical Sciences (5) and others.

China’s top advisory body meets

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The third annual session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) opened on May 21, after being delayed for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much is expected of this year's session of China's top political advisers as the country's goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects is expected to be realized by the end of this year, which is also the final year of the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). 

The CPPCC National Committee gathers the country's smartest minds from different walks of life. 

Their ideas have contributed a great deal to what this country has achieved in its endeavors in poverty alleviation, in making progress in all fields for the realization of the goal of building China into a moderately prosperous country in all aspects. And so have their inputs into the fight against the novel coronavirus. 

The convening of the session highlights the achievements China has made in fighting the contagion and that its epidemic control measures have taken effect. And what China has achieved in its fight against the virus once again speaks volumes about the importance of national cohesion under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

The cohesiveness of the Chinese people would be impossible, without the capable leadership of the CPC Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping as its core, which through constant recalibration of its leadership keeps the country on the right track. 

This is exactly where the CPPCC National Committee members play their roles as political advisers. 

The fact-finding missions and investigations they conduct, and the research they do on specific issues help them come up with ideas to resolve problems and propose solutions to quandaries. 

China's successful containment of the spread of the virus has made it possible for it to look ahead. However, the road forward is likely to be bumpy with various challenges needing to be overcome. 

How will China be able to consolidate what it has achieved in its fight against the virus? How will it win the hardest battle of lifting the last batch of poverty-stricken villagers out of destitution? How can it improve the country's governing capability? How can it foster a more amenable international environment for its further development? 

The members of the CPPCC National Committee are expected to provide suggestions to answer such questions. This is why the CPPCC National Committee's annual session is of significance. 

It enables these political advisers to pool their wisdom so they can make practical suggestions to benefit the nation. It is being hoped that despite the practical difficulties that need to be overcome because of the anti-pandemic requirements, this session will be a success.

Chairman Senate hopes for further consolidation of Sino-Pak ties

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani called on Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jiang, in Islamabad and exchanged views on China-Pakistani relations.

Ambassador Yao thanked the Chairman Senate for passing a resolution that appreciated China's international cooperation in the fight against epidemic disease and said that since the outbreak, the two countries have supported each other and cooperated closely to fight against the epidemic. 

“Facts once again proved that China and Pakistan are true friends in trouble and good brothers who share the same difficulties. China is willing to continue to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan in the fight against epidemics and work together to overcome the epidemic situation,” the Ambassador recognized while celebrating the 69th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. 

The Chairman Senate appreciated the timely and decisive measures taken by China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, to combat the new coronary pneumonia epidemic and thanked China for providing valuable support for Pakistan’s fight against the epidemic. 

The Pakistan Senate, he added, hoped to strengthen friendly exchanges with China's legislative bodies and political parties, further consolidate China-Pakistan friendship and deepen China-Pakistan cooperation.

China declared main feature in Pakistan’s foreign policy

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan and China partnership has grown from strength to strength to unprecedented high levels over the years, Foreign Minister. Shah Mahmood Qureshi declared in an interview.

As the two allies celebrated the the 69th diplomatic relations’ anniversary on May 21, Shah Mahmood Qureshi firmly asserted that the Pakistan-China ties were unbreakable and time-tested. 

“China is the main feature of our foreign policy. We are iron brothers. May 21 is important for both of us,” he stated, adding that there was a consensus among all the political parties on close ties with China. 

“Our partnership is ever growing. We will not look back. China is a great friend,” he acknowledged. 

The Foreign Minister underscored that Pakistan and China were all-weather strategic cooperative partners, having preserved the fine tradition of solidarity, mutual assistance and mutual respect.

Sino-Pakistan friendship to grow further: Ambassador

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

“The cooperation between China and Pakistan in the fight against COVID-19 is a model of international cooperation. Our all-weather strategic and cooperative partnership is consolidated in addressing this common challenge. China is deeply touched by the firm support it received from Pakistan in its effort to curb the epidemic.” 

This was observed by the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Jiang Yao, during an interview as both the countries celebrated May 21 as the 69th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties. 

“President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan sent letters of solidarity to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang respectively. President Arif Alvi paid a special visit to China in March this year. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a phone call to President Xi Jinping to express his support for China. Foreign Minister Qureshi held two telephone conversations with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi,” he recalled.

“Pakistan tried its best to mobilize anti-epidemic materials nationwide to support China. The National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan respectively passed resolutions to support China's fight against COVID-19. Many Pakistani people, including Pakistani students studying in China, expressed their support in various ways, reflecting the rock-solid friendship between China and Pakistan,” the Ambassador added. 

“When COVID-19 broke out in Pakistan, China rushed for assistance. The Chinese central and local governments, the military, enterprises, the Red Cross Society of China, and civil society continued to provide Pakistan with urgently needed anti-epidemic materials, including large quantities of testing kits, masks, ventilators, PPEs, medicines and cash to assist Pakistan in establishing a new isolation hospital. China has also held video conferences with Pakistan and sent medical teams to Pakistan for experience sharing and disease prevention and control,” he narrated. 

“Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have overcome difficulties to promote the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and maintained good communication and cooperation in international and regional affairs,” Ambassador Yao remarked. 

“I would like to thank Pakistan for recognizing outstanding contribution of China to international anti-epidemic cooperation and its firm opposition to stigmatize China by certain countries,” he acknowledged. 

“I have every reason to believe that our friendship and cooperation will grow stronger in post COVID-19 era,” the Ambassador reckoned

No layoff, zero infection among CPEC workers

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan, Yao Jing, has categorically stated that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major and pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has achieved fruitful results in development of Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) over the past six years where around 75,000 Pakistanis are working in different capacity.

In an interview, on the eve of the 69th anniversary of establishment of Pakistan-China relations on May 21), he stated that both sides, starting this year, have worked closely to mitigate the challenge of COVID-19 outbreak on the sustainable development of the CPEC. 

“There is zero infection in the CPEC projects due to strict measures taken by both sides. The Chinese companies have not withdrawn themselves nor did they layoff local staff,” he revealed. 

“The progress is on the way. Joint working groups on energy, agriculture, social and economic cooperation, and science and technology have convened video conference respectively to review the progress,” he observed. 

“The energy projects guaranteed one third of the electrical supply in Pakistan. Phase II of KKH is almost ready for traffic. The integrated test and commissioning inspection for Lahore Orange Line Project have been successfully completed and passed. The construction of the new airport in Gwadar comes to the second phase. The construction of Karot Hydra power station is in full swing. The two sides kept discussion on ML-1,” the Ambassador narrated. 

“We are happy to hear that the Pakistan government has allowed transit trade of Afghan bulk cargo of wheat, sugar and fertilizer to go through Gwadar Port. In the next stage, both sides will focus more on industrial, social and economic cooperation. We are confident that the CPEC projects will give a fresh impetus to Pakistan,” he hoped.

China's border controls may ease in June

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China is likely to gradually ease its border controls after the two sessions, the nation's most important annual political event, which is scheduled to kick off on May 21 and it will last one week.

Easing the controls will facilitate the resumption of international exchanges, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been basically brought under control in China and some other countries such as South Korea, the experts reckoned.

"China may relax border controls gradually after the two sessions or in early June," Wang Hongwei, a professor at Renmin University of China's School of Public Administration and Policy in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

"The Chinese students studying abroad who have graduated, important business leaders and much-needed production technicians, could get priority to return to China," Wang noted. 

Zhou Zijun, a public health expert at Peking University, stated that as the epidemic has ebbed in China and medical testing ability has improved, it's time to lift restrictions on some business travel. 

"China can now properly handle a small level of imported cases. China is unlikely to allow a large number of ordinary tourists to enter or exit in a short time," Zhou added. 

Both the experts remained cautious about opening up normal international travel due to fears of another spike in infections. 

An insider with the state aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, revealed that the agency hasn't received confirmation on the resumption of international flights. 

The Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri, had earlier reported that China and South Korea had consulted Japan about easing their border controls on business travelers.

Such a move has been already implemented between China and South Korea as the two countries, on May 1, became the first in the world to open an express channel for business executives who test negative for the coronavirus before departure and after arrival in order to facilitate the movement of important products and raw materials, reports said. 

Zhou felt that lifting border restrictions means the authorities should first assess the risks of the epidemic in the departure and destination countries. 

The move between China and South Korea is reasonable and practical to resume business activities, as well as production and work, on the premise of epidemic prevention and control, Zhou noted. 

The Shanghai-based news website ThePaper.cn carried an story indicating that international airlines were planning to increase flights to China in June as the public looked forward to a gradual relaxation of travel restrictions due to the outbreak. 

According to the report, South Korea's Asiana Airlines planned to resume 12 routes to China in June while Korean Air was making preparations to restart flights to the country. Also, Qatar Airways said it expected to serve passengers flying to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai by the end of June and Turkish Airlines planned to resume flights to Shanghai in June. 

The border lockdown is a temporary emergency measure in response to the pandemic, and it won't last long as cases of the virus tail off in some countries, Wang said, noting that in the era of economic globalization, easing the restrictions can help revive business activity. 

At the same time, Wang explained that easing the epidemic control should be carried out step by step, along with improving medical testing and quarantine ability. 

Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission, disclosed that more than 100,000 new cases were confirmed in a single day on May 17 for the first time, bringing the total number to more than 4.52 million worldwide. 

He said that China will conduct test all inbound and outbound passengers and staff participating in immigration and transshipment work, strengthen closed-loop management and prevent local outbreaks from imported cases.