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China lockdown may have prevented 7 lakh COVID-19 cases

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Coronavirus

London, April 1 (IANS) Researchers claim that China’s control measures during the first 50 days of the novel coronavirus pandemic may have delayed the spread of the virus to cities outside of Wuhan by several days and, by interrupting transmission nationwide, prevented more than 700,000 infections across the country.

The study, published in the journal Science, could be useful to countries that are still in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The number of confirmed cases in China by day 50 (February 19) of the epidemic, was around 30,000. Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan by that date,” said study researcher Christopher Dye from the University of Oxford in the UK.

“China’s control measures appear to have worked by successfully breaking the chain of transmission — preventing contact between infectious and susceptible people,” Dye added.

For the findings, the researchers used a unique combination of case reports, human movement data and public health intervention information to investigate the spread and control of COVID-19.

They examined the movements of 4.3 million people out of Wuhan before the travel ban, the types and timing of control measures implemented across the cities of China and the numbers of COVID-19 cases reported each day in every city.

“One fascinating aspect of our work is that it shows the power of novel data streams such as cell phone mobility data,” said study researcher Ottar Bjornstad from Penn State University.

“Since the time period we studied included the Spring Festival holiday and Chinese Lunar New Year, we were able to compare patterns of travel into and out of Wuhan during the outbreak with cell phone data from two previous spring festivals,” Bjornstad added.

The analysis revealed an extraordinary reduction in movement following the travel ban of January 23, 2020.

The team’s model also analysed the specific effects of the Wuhan shutdown and found that it delayed the arrival of COVID-19 in other cities by several days.

“This delay provided extra time to prepare for the arrival of COVID-19 in more than 130 cities,” said Huaiyu Tian, Associate Professor of epidemiology, Beijing Normal University.

These cities banned public gatherings, closed entertainment venues and suspended public transport, among other actions. As a result, they reported 33 per cent fewer confirmed cases during the first week of their outbreaks than cities that did not implement a Level 1 Response.

While the control measures taken thus far have reduced the number of COVID-19 infections to very low levels, China is by no means out of the woods, the researchers noted.

Disaster

Two Radio Pakistan staffers die of COVID-19

Two employees of Radio Pakistan have died from the coronavirus – Muhammad Ashfaq, a senior broadcast engineer and Huma Zafar, an Urdu newscaster, died after contracting the disease

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Radio Pakistan Huma Zafar

Islamabad, May 29 : Two Radio Pakistan staffers died from the novel coronavirus, it was reported.

According to an official statement issued by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) on Thursday, the victims were Senior Broadcast Engineer Mohammad Ashfaq and Huma Zafar, was an Urdu newscaster, reports Dawn news.

They were both associated with Radio Pakistan for 20 years

Radio Pakistan Deputy Controller News Sajjad Parvez told Dawn news that Ashfaq, who was already suffering from a chronic lung condition, tested positive for COVID-19 10 days ago and had isolated himself.

“His kidneys were also weak, because of which he underwent dialysis, but he could not survive,” he said.

Of the second victim, Parvez said: “Huma’s sister was infected with COVID-19 in Lahore, due to which she went to Lahore with her mother. Later, she and her mother also contracted the virus, due to which her mother died Wednesday night and she died on Thursday.”

PBC media coordinator Chaudhry Zameer Ashraf said the PBC has decided to ensure the safety of employees and all possible measures are being taken to protect them from the coronavirus.

A PBC employee said that officially, nine engineers were tested for COVID-19 of which four were positive and the reports of another two employees are still pending.

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No immediate plan to go for stricter lockdown: Pakistan

The remarks come as the number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has increased to 62,789, while the death toll stood at 1,286.

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Pakistan Lockdown

Islamabad, May 29 : The Pakistan government has said that it has no immediate plan to go for a stricter lockdown, despite thousands of new COVID-19 cases, as well as deaths, it was reported on Friday.

Speaking to Dawn news on Thursday, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that although there were reports from some big metropolitan cities about pressure on certain hospitals due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, the overall situation and conditions in hospitals overall were “satisfactory”.

Faraz said the number of COVID-19 patients was still less than what they had previously estimated.

Responding to a question, he expressed his concern over reports of violations of SOPs (standard operating procedures) by the public, but said there was no decision to impose a “strict lockdown” in the country.

Faraz said there was no confusion among the government ranks or in the mind of Prime Minister Imran Khan about the need for continuing economic activities in the country.

He said the lockdown was not sustainable in a country with more than 150 million poor population.

“The situation is tricky. We are very closely monitoring facts and figures which will basically become our guide,” he said.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza told Dawn news also on Thursday that the next meeting of the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 would be held on June 1.

The remarks come as the number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has increased to 62,789, while the death toll stood at 1,286.

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Akbaruddin isolated Pakistan at UN, engineered India’s ICJ win over UK

The Fund also distinguishes itself from China’s controversial aid programmes by providing assistance multilaterally through the UN.

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Syed Akbaruddin United Nations

United Nations, May 29 : Having deft diplomacy to successfully isolate Pakistan on the Kashmir issue at the UN and engineered India’s unprecedented victory for the judgeship of the World Court over a Security Council permanent member, Syed Akbaruddin has wound up his term as India’s Permanent Representative to the world body.

Akbaruddin, who retired after a 35-year career in the Indian Foreign Service this month, helped create history when the members of the UN overwhelmingly voted for the re-election of Dalveer Bhandari in 2017 rebelling against the hegemony of the permanent members and forced Britain to withdraw its candidate Christoper Greenwood, who had the majority support in the Security Council.

It marked a clear shift in the balance of power at the UN, from old colonial powers of the last century to the emerging nations of this.

“I was lucky to represent India when our global image was on the rise,” Akbaruddin told IANS, attributing the nation’s successes during his tenure to that and an appreciation of how New Delhi engaged with countries around the world.

Pakistan’s persistent, intensive diplomacy to internationalise the Kashmir issue was checkmated with 189 of the 193 members repudiating it.

Besides Pakistan, only Malaysia and Turkey have raised it in the General Assembly, and even that only once and giving up after being isolated.

China tried twice to bring it up in the Security Council but couldn’t even get a statement acknowledging that it had been discussed in closed-door consultations.

He helped rip China’s protective mantle over Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and have him listed as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

Of his diplomacy, Akbaruddin said: “The only way to succeed here is through partnerships.”

And partnerships he had built aplenty winning the regard of fellow-diplomats and UN leaders.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande described him as a “great diplomat”.

He told IANS: “Syed Akbaruddin was one of the very best. I can tell you, I cannot imagine anyone of us who has worked with Syed who will say anything differently. He is a very wise man, very, very sincere, very knowledgeable.”

Muhammad-Bande added that he would congratulate India for producing diplomats like him.

Akbaruddin projected India’s soft-power at the UN, organising grand concerts by maestros A.R. Rahman and Amjad Ali Khan at the General Assembly chamber.

The UN issued a stamp honouring the classical Carnatic singer MS Subbulakshmi in 2016, commemorating her UN concert 50 years earlier that year in 1966.

And during the International Yoga Days he literally had ‘asanas’ projected on the UN headquarters building and for Diwali a greeting, the image of which became the backdrop for a Diwali stamp set issued by the UN postal system.

Quick to seize opportunities for India’s image-building, he promoted the construction of the 50-kilowatt Gandhi Solar Park on a UN building to provide clean electricity to the UN complex as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres prioritised a global move away from fossil fuel-generated power.

Akbaruddin’s tenure also saw the launch of the UN-India Partnership Fund that provides aid to small developing countries. Starting in 2017 with a project to provide a climate early warning system for seven island nations in the Pacific region, the programme has grown into a 10-year programme with a goal of $150 million.

Currently there are 40 projects covering 39 countries.

The Fund also distinguishes itself from China’s controversial aid programmes by providing assistance multilaterally through the UN.

An avid user of social media, who pushed its multimedia use by the mission, Akbaruddin was ranked the diplomat at the UN with the second-highest number of Twitter followers after then-US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley.

A second generation diplomat – his father Syed Bashiruddin was India’s Ambassador to Qatar – Akbaruddin joined the foreign service in 1985. Among his many diplomatic assignments was that of the spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry and acting as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spokesperson on his travels abroad.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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