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Pakistan’s minority lawmakers call for holidays on Hindu festivals

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Pakistan’s non-Muslim members of the National Assembly have suggested that days be shaved off the Eid holidays so that national holidays could be observed on Hindu festivals as well.

Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Ramesh Lal and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Ramesh Kumar and Vankwani raised the issue in the National Assembly on Thursday, Dawn online reported.

Lal lauded the Sindh government for declaring Holi a gazetted holiday and suggested that the federal government also follow the suit.

Vankwani demanded that the federal government should declare a holiday on the occasion of Holi and Diwali — the two main festivals of Hindus.

“If you think that there are already too many holidays in the country, then days can be subtracted from the three to four-day long Eid holidays,” he added.

He referred to a statement by Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, who recently observed that Pakistan already has too many national holidays.

None of the legislators from religious parties — Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl — objected to Vankwani’s suggestion.

Later, in his speech, Khalil George, a Christian PML-N member, also supported the demands of the Hindu members of the assembly.

“We do not have any problems with holidays on our festivals as Easter falls on a Sunday, while Christmas is already a holiday thanks to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birth anniversary,” he said, adding “but I do support their cause”.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Hindu assembly member Lal Chand Malhi said that even if there is not a national holiday on Holi and Diwali, these festivals should be made gazetted holidays for Hindus.

“This facility is available to religious minorities in many countries,” he said.

Incidentally, Vijay Jolly — a senior member of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) who recently visited Islamabad, said that Muslims in India have holidays on both Eids and Ashura.

Speaking at the National Press Club, he called for a “similar arrangement for religious minorities in Pakistan”.

India is not the only country in the world where gazetted holidays are available for members of all religious minorities. Most western countries also have such provisions.

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Iran urges EU to defy US sanctions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday censured US for maintaining its sanctions against Iran despite the outbreak of COVID-19 across the country.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Tehran, April 5 : Iran’s envoy to Belgium on Saturday asked the European Union to oppose US sanctions on Iran amid the surge of COVID-19 pandemic, state TV reported.

The “unilateral and illegal sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran under the guise of its maximum pressure campaign undermine the country’s ability to effectively battle the virus without any international support in the long run,” Gholam Hossein Dehqani said in a letter to Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Xinhua reported.

Dehqani urged the European Union to defy “the inhumane” US sanctions as they infringe on the ordinary citizens’ rights to meet their basic needs.

On Friday, Iran’s envoy to the UN office in Geneva Esmaeil Baqaei Hamaneh said that the US “cruel and illegal” sanctions against Iran have resulted in difficulties for ordinary Iranians’ access to medicine and medical equipment and services as the country is engaged in the combat with the novel coronavirus.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday censured US for maintaining its sanctions against Iran despite the outbreak of COVID-19 across the country.

Iran’s health ministry on Saturday announced 55,743 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and a total of 3,452 deaths.

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CoronaVirus: US COVID-19 deaths surpass 8,000

Globally, the death toll is more than 59,100, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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The total deaths of COVID-19 in the US topped 8,000 as of 2.30 p.m. on Saturday (local time), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

President Donald Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus press briefing on Saturday, “This will be the toughest week” in the U.S. fight against the pandemic.

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately,” he said.

The president’s comments came as the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to over 300,000, with the number of deaths at more than 8,000, according to NBC News’ tally.

Globally, the death toll is more than 59,100, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The CDC is recommending now that Americans wear cloth masks when out in public. And, New York, by far the hardest-hit state, is gearing up for the pandemic to peak there in an expected in four to 10 days. China is donating 1,000 ventilators to the state, and another 140 are coming from Oregon.

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COVID-19 claims over 15,000 lives in Italy, ICUs see first drop of patients

The death toll on Saturday was 681, bringing the total to 15,362 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21.

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Rome, April 5 : The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 15,000 lives in locked-down Italy, as the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries has risen to 124,632, according to the fresh data released by the country’s Civil Protection Department on Saturday.

Speaking during a televised press conference, Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli confirmed that there were 2,886 new active coronavirus infections compared to Friday, bringing the nationwide total to 88,274 cases, Xinhua reported.

Of those infected, 29,010 are hospitalized, including 3,994 in intensive care, and the rest are quarantined at home, Borrelli said.

“Today for the first time we have a very significant element to report, which is that the number of patients in intensive care has decreased by 74 individuals,” Borrelli said.

“This is important news because it gives our hospitals some breathing room, and it is the first negative number since we began managing the emergency,” he said.

Borrelli added that there were 1,238 additional recoveries compared to Friday, bringing that total to 20,996.

The death toll on Saturday was 681, bringing the total to 15,362 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21.

“The number of daily fatalities has been constantly decreasing” from a high of 969 deaths on March 27, Borrelli pointed out.

Among the latest coronavirus victims was a state police officer who served on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s security detail.

“Today Giorgio Guastamacchia…aged just 51, passed away,” the prime minister wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “He had been recently hospitalized in Rome after contracting the COVID-19. This is a time of great sorrow for all of us who knew him.”

In an interview with RAI News 24 public broadcaster earlier in the day, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that “we are still in the thick of battle, so we must not underestimate (the situation).”

“Right now the path of social distancing is the true weapon we have at our disposal,” Speranza said.

The minister also underlined the importance of scientific research in terms of vaccine and therapy.

“But at the moment, the truth is that there is no vaccine and there is no proven therapy, so the true path, the true solution right now is social distancing, which is still the only weapon that all the governments in the world are using to reduce the contagion,” Speranza emphasized.

About the life after the pandemic, the health minister said: “The premise for the economic recovery of our country is victory in this ongoing health care battle — the two elements cannot be placed in contradiction to each other.”

“Without this health care victory, there can be no economic and social recovery,” Speranza stressed.

He was echoed by Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri, who warned citizens in a press conference “to abstain from thinking that the time has already come to… go back to normal behavior.”

“For now, nothing has changed,” he emphasized.

Arcuri, who is also the CEO of Invitalia, a national business incentives agency owned by the Ministry of Economy, is in charge of ramping up production and distribution of medical supplies, bolstering the national health care system, and managing economic support for families, workers, and businesses affected by the coronavirus emergency.

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