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No direct role of Pakistan Army in July 25 elections: Asif Ghafoor

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Islamabad, July 19 : Pakistani Army will have no direct role in the country’s July 25 general elections and will work on the Election Commission’s directives to conduct peaceful polls, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Thursday.

Asif Ghafoor, Director General of the Army’s media wing ISPR, rejected reports that the Army will work independently during the elections and clarified that its personnel will follow the poll body’s instructions.

“There were some rumours that Army personnel had been issued ‘different’ orders — this is completely baseless,” he said at the special session of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.

“We do not have any link with the elections… we are only working on the Election Commission’s directives to improve the law and order situation. We do not have a direct role in polls.”

Ghafoor then elaborated on the election duty assigned to Army personnel, saying: “The armed forces have always lent support to civil institutions. The security situation is being improved in the entire country to hold elections, Dawn online reported.

“Three hundred and seventy one thousand Army soldiers will be deployed at the countrywide polling stations. The Army is also performing its duty at the printing press (for ballots).”

However, he said that the Army’s role in providing security for elections did not mean that it would also take direct responsibility for the well being of politicians.

Stressing on complying with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct, Ghafoor said the troops also have to perform the police’s duties until the latter’s capabilities improve.

“We took extraordinary measures when polls were held in Afghanistan. Now the Afghan President has assured the Prime Minister and Army chief, over the phone, of cooperation.”

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that the Army personnel deployed across the country on the polling day will work under presiding officers. He further stated that a written code of conduct was in place to this effect.

He said that Army personnel will be liable to inform the presiding officer and returning officer if anyone attempts to fill ballot boxes, after which the prescribed method will be followed. “Troops will only aid in holding peaceful polls,” he said.

The Senate session was presided over by the Committee Chairperson Senator Rehman Malik. Federal Interior and Defence Secretaries, ECP secretary and several other government officials were also present in the meeting.

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Global Covid-19 cases top 31mn mark: Johns Hopkins

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The overall number of global coronavirus cases on Monday surpassed the 31 million mark, while the deaths have increased to more than 960,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases stood at 31,044,033 and the fatalities rose to 960,826, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 6,805,629 and 199,512, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in the second place in terms of cases at 5,487,580, while the country’s death toll soared to 87,882.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are Brazil (4,544,629), Russia (1,105,048), Peru (768,895), Colombia (765,076), Mexico (697,663), South Africa (661,211), Spain (640,040), Argentina (631,365), France (467,614), Chile (446,274), Iran (422,140), the UK (396,744), Bangladesh (348,918), Saudi Arabia (329,754) and Iraq (319,035), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of fatalities at 136,895.

The countries with a death toll above 10,000 are Mexico (73,493), the UK (41,866), Italy (35,668), Peru (31,369), France (31,257), Spain (30,495), Iran (24,301), Colombia (23,665), Russia (19,420), South Africa (15,953), Argentina (13,053), Chile (12,286) and Ecuador (11,090).

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UK PM to address nation over ‘winter lockdown plans

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to address the nation to brace citizens for “winter lockdown plans” in preparation for a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, media reports said.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

He is looking at making pubs and restaurants close early and banning households from meeting up, it added.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance will reportedly make an address ahead of the Prime Minister, the Metro newspaper said in a report.

The scientists will outline the consequences of taking no action to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, a government adviser, Professor Susan Michie, told The Telegraph on Sunday that every day of delay could have dire health outcomes.

“We need a stitch in time. We need to learn the lessons of the spring. Every day’s delay to a step change in measures to restrict transmission when it is increasing exponentially will be expensive in terms of health and lives in the short term and the economy in the long term,” she added.

Johnson has previously admitted that second national lockdown would be “nothing short of disastrous”‘ for the UK, the Metro newspaper reported.

The development comes as more than 10 million across the UK are placed in some form of local lockdown.As of Monday, the UK has reported a total of 396,744 coron mm mm u huhavirus cases, with 41,866 deaths.

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4 new Covid-19 cases reported in NZ

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Wellington, Sep 20 (IANS) New Zealand reported four new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the nationwide tally to 1,464, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Of the four new cases, two were community cases and two were at managed isolation facilities, Xinhua news agency reported citing the Ministry statement.

The current number of active cases in New Zealand has reduced to 71, including three patients in Auckland hospitals.

Laboratories across New Zealand have conducted 5,417 tests, increasing the total number till date to 910,853, according to the Ministry.

New Zealand is now at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 with additional restrictions on gatherings for its biggest city Auckland.

–IANS

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.