Friday, March 27, 2020

Video - Dr. Fauci Answers Trevor’s Questions About Coronavirus | The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah

Video Report - #Coronavirus #Pandemic: The politics of testing and confinement / The World This Week

Video Report - #CoronaUpdate - Bill Gates makes a prediction about when coronavirus cases will peak

Video Report - #CoronaUpdate #Italy Italy reports record 919 #COVID-19 deaths in a day

Video Report - #Pandemic Who's leading the global fight against the #coronavirus?

#Pakistan #PPP - #coronavirusinpakistan - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asks government to renegotiate terms with IMF

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Thursday asked the federal government to renegotiate new terms with the IMF by keeping in view of the impact of coronavirus pandemic. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from his twitter account tweeted that it has been Pakistan People’s Party’s position for some time that the federal government must renegotiate its ruinous deal with the IMF.
He stated in a message through his twitter account that the given we are facing global pandemic government must renegotiate new terms with the IMF that takes into account impact of COVID-19 global economy.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from his twitter account tweeted that it has been Pakistan People’s Party’s position for some time that the federal government must renegotiate its ruinous deal with the IMF.
He stated in a message through his twitter account that the given we are facing global pandemic government must renegotiate new terms with the IMF that takes into account impact of COVID-19 global economy.

#Pakistan - #SaveSajidBaloch - Sajid Hussain, editor in chief of #Balochistan Times has gone missing in Sweden

The editorial board of the Balochistan Times has decided to share the deeply concerning news about the disappearance of our Chief Editor, Sajid Hussain. He has been missing from Uppsala, Sweden, since March 2, 2020. A formal case was filed with the Swedish police on March 3, 2020.

As of today, there is no clue about his whereabouts and wellbeing. The police have not shared any progress into the investigations with his family and friends.

We urge the Swedish government to deal with this matter with utmost urgency. Considering his role as a leading figure in the Baloch media and his work on the conflict in Balochistan, we share his family’s fears about his safety. Since it is an ongoing investigation, we hope to see progress on the matter soon.
We would like to assure Sajid’s family that the Balochistan Times stands with them at this uncertain and difficult time. Our team is also ready to offer any assistance the Swedish authorities might need in locating him.

#coronavirusinpakistan - Mosques remain open in Pakistan despite virus threats


Pakistani clerics and government officials have refused to close mosques attended by millions each week, where hugs and handshakes are common (AFP Photo/Aamir QURESHI) Worshippers crowded into mosques in Pakistan on Friday, defying warnings about the fast-spreading coronavirus and fuelling fears of a public health crisis in the impoverished country.
In contrast to many other Muslim countries, Pakistani clerics and government officials have refused to close mosques attended by millions each week, where hugs and handshakes are common.
The country's leading religious scholars have only advised that the old and sick avoid prayers and instructed clerics to keep sermons brief.
"We don't believe in coronavirus, we believe in Allah. Whatever happens, it happens from Allah," said Altaf Khan, as worshippers wearing masks arrived for Friday prayers in the capital Islamabad.
Tiktok videos garnering hundreds of thousands of likes on social media in Pakistan have called for Muslims to attend mosques despite public health warnings.
"Most of the people are terrified," said Islamabad resident Syed Ashfaq Ahmed after visiting a mosque this week.
"They went to the mosque to seek help from Allah."
Pakistan has so far declared 1,235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths but there are fears that limited testing is understating the true scale of the outbreak which has infected more than 530,000 people globally.The majority of its early cases have been directly linked to pilgrims returning from Iran, where for weeks authorities refused to close its shrines as the virus spread, exposing possibly tens of thousands of people.
- 'Packed churches' -
In many parts of the Muslim world, countries are taking action.
Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages and closed mosques, while scholars in Egypt have issued a fatwa permitting the banning of public prayers to help contain the virus outbreak.
Turkey has shut mosques to mass gatherings while Muslim organisations in Indonesia called for Friday prayers to be carried out at home -- though many ignored the advice.
Muslims turned out as normal in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, however, where mosques were packed and prayer leaders called on their congregations to be brave. "Allah will protect Muslims from disasters from the coronavirus," a prayer leader told a crowded mosque in the city.
There has also been a mixed response in some predominantly Christian countries.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro -- who was elected in 2018 with the backing of the country's burgeoning evangelical Christian community -- declared churches exempt from virus containment measures.
Most places of worship in Brazil have already suspended services because of the outbreak, often broadcasting them online instead, but some prominent religious leaders have refused.And US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he looked forward to "packed churches" over Easter, just three weeks away, when he hoped the virus would be under control.
- Political damage - 

 Pakistan has a long history of failing to contain infectious diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, and hepatitis due to decades of underinvestment in its health sector that has left hospitals with few basic supplies and vital technology needed to face any crisis.
But Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly refused to interfere in the issue of shutting mosques or even order a country-wide lockdown, citing the economic damage that could be unleashed.
"Religion is always the weakest link of the state institutions. The government fears the reaction from the clergy," said Amir Rana, director for the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
"The clergy has the ability to challenge their religious credentials and cause political damage."
But some provincial leaders have taken measures into their own hands, while the military has fanned out across the country to help keep order.
Only the southern Sindh province has issued orders to cancel Friday prayers, while other provinces published varying restrictions that stopped short of an outright ban.The measures had some impact in Peshawar's historic Mahabat Khan mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where just dozens attended Friday prayers compared to the usual thousands.The country's science minister lashed out at Pakistan's clerical establishment on Twitter, saying the "ignorance of the reactionary religious class" was responsible for the continued spread of COVID-19.
Even still many say gathering for prayers is important during such dire times.
"Common sense tells you that the risks are very high," Pakistan-based public health specialist Arshad Altaf told AFP.
"The government needs to take the lead."

Some in Pakistan – but not the PM – showing leadership

For now, it is Murad Ali Shah and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who are leading the charge against the pandemic.
The world has been changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Such is the impact of the change that the new world order designed by the US after it was attacked on September 11, 2001, is beginning to collapse. Nowadays no one feels threatened by the Taliban, al-Qaeda or ISIS; the threat to the entire globe is now the coronavirus that causes this new disease. Even a superpower like the US is struggling to combat the Covid-19 outbreak as it was not able to assess the threat at first.
While the countries of the world are focused on improving their health services, spending money on trying to find a vaccine and restructuring their economies to face the challenges of the post-pandemic era, the debate in Pakistan still revolves around whether congregational prayers should be allowed in the mosques or not. No one is bothered about the changes this pandemic have brought to the globe, and the focus is entirely on whether to keep the mosques open or close them down for an indefinite period.
The federal government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which also rules in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), decided not to ban the Friday congregational prayers that attract large gatherings of worshipers, while the provincial government of Sindh led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), going against the odds, has banned the prayers in mosques until April 5.
This reflects the political and religious divide in the country at a time when national unity is the need of the hour. Prime Minister Imran Khan has miserably failed to bring the political leadership together, and instead the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who leads the PPP, is doing this job and contacting every political party to devise a uniform policy against the outbreak of Covid-19.
Much to the credit of the PPP, despite being portrayed as a corrupt and evil party by the controlled media, it has not only managed to effectively counter the spread of the disease in the province of Sindh but it has also been leading by example. The call for social isolation and to lock down the country first came from Bilawal, and it was the PPP government in Sindh that led the way by going for a lockdown in the province it governs.
Even the chief minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, can be seen in the field as he regularly visits hospitals and quarantine centers. It seems that we are watching the revival of the old PPP of Zulfikar Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto that was liked in every part of the country for its passion for the common masses and its ability to make hard decisions.
Perhaps Bilawal has taken the path of his late mother Benazir, and this is the reason that at a time of crisis when PTI has choked in the center as well as in Punjab and KP and was clueless about going for a lockdown or not, the PPP has risen to the challenge and despite very few resources at its disposal is fighting the pandemic efficiently.
Even this decision to ban congregational prayers is not easy, as a country where mullahs and so-called religious scholars enjoy a monopoly and can easily brainwash millions of minds against this step, the PPP government is very brave and needs to applauded. That is where the PPP stands tall and way ahead of the other mainstream centrist parties like PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
However, the Sindh government’s fight against the pandemic and Bilawal Bhutto’s efforts to unite the political leadership are not enough to save the country from the likely consequences of this pandemic, both in terms of losing lives and the impact on the economy. There is no way this pandemic can be stopped while the gatherings of people in the mosques are allowed, but the federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan, as usual, are happier to please the mullahs and the right-wing vote bank.
In fact, the federal government even at this late stage is unable to decide whether a nationwide lockdown is necessary or not, as Khan has asked the provinces to reassess their own lockdowns and relax their conditions. The never-ending narcissism of Khan is not letting him understand a basic point that the entire world has acknowledged, that at the moment only lockdowns can reduce the spread of Covid-19. The federal government has approved a 1.2 trillion rupee relief package to meet the crisis created by the pandemic. In the package, 150 billion rupees is earmarked for laborers and 280 billion rupees for wheat procurement to support farmers. The government has also cut the prices of petroleum products by 15 rupees.
However, the part of the package targeted for the poor seems a joke, as it is only offering 3,000 rupees per family to the daily-wage-earners segment of the masses, an amount that could not support a family of three or four members for even a week. In contrast, the Sindh government is reaching out to the poor by providing them with food for the month of March, and it intends to continue this provision until the pandemic crisis is over.
The central government has been unable to understand the gravity of the situation. As part of its relief package, the policy interest rate has been reduced only slightly, to 11% from 13.25%. All that will do is ensure that the hot money that had been attracted by the higher rates will be pulled out by investors.
As a result, on Thursday the rupee lost its value against the US dollar massively. The same is the case with the stock markets in Pakistan, where because of the fall in the rupee’s value uncertainty still prevails despite the government’s relief package. In contrast, the $2 trillion relief package passed by the US Senate has not only strengthened the trust of investors but it has also brought a new lease on life for the stock market, as the Dow soared 11% on Tuesday, the highest single-day jump since 1933.Of course Pakistan is not the US, and it cannot present a relief package of that magnitude. But still, only cutting interest rates minimally and giving 3,000 rupees to poor families is not going to help stop the anxiety and panic of the business community and the masses. The most important aspect is being entirely ignored, and that is the restructuring of the economy, as in the post-Covid-19 era the world will be relying on digital economies, and until a vaccine is found the conventional style of business and maintaining economies will not work properly.The government seems visionless, as it is still focused on how to undermine the PPP government’s good fight against the pandemic in the province of Sindh and to undermine the free press further, as the editor-in-chief of Jang Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, is still languishing behind bars. Meanwhile Imran Khan, despite being in a very weak position due to his confused state of mind and lack of ability to make timely decisions, is not ready to release Shakil as a goodwill gesture to win back the confidence of the press. Likewise, he also is not interested in listening to the advice of the opposition parties, and this has made him politically isolated.
At a time when the prime minister needed united political support, he chose to self-isolate – not from Covid-19 but from the support of all the political parties. So the worries for Pakistan are not only how to stop the spread of this pandemic and to save its already fragile economy from collapsing, but also the absence of a mature and independent decision-maker in the central government.
A government that cannot even resist the pressure of the mullahs and ban the gatherings of worshipers for a limited time and in limited numbers can never stop this pandemic from spreading. The PTI government needs to understand one simple point, that is it not only the doctors and the medical staff that will have to wage a tireless war against this Covid-19 pandemic, every single person in society has to play his or her own role.
To persuade the masses to do what is needed in these times of crisis, this government not only needs complete political support at its back but it also needs to learn quickly the requirements of the post-Covid era. There is no point in locking down the cities while not doing massive testing to separate the disinfected; there is no use asking people to self-isolate when congregational prayers are still allowed in most parts of the country; there is no point in announcing a relief package to meet the crisis when the government cannot even provide face masks to the downtrodden segment of society.
This is not a short-term battle, it’s going to be a very long war, and the masses need to be prepared for it – they don’t need to be further brainwashed by mullahs in the name of religion.No religion in the world can invent a vaccine for Covid-19, and no religion should ask its followers to conduct collective suicide by gathering for worship at a time when self-isolation is as vital as oxygen for the survival of human beings. Likewise, Imran Khan and his team can learn from Bilawal Bhutto’s political wisdom and the uniting efforts of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah about how to assert government authority on the mullahs and how to fight the pandemic in an organized way.At a time of crisis, the stature of a man decides whether he will be lost in the dustbin of history because of his inability to rise against the challenges posed by the crisis, or if he will be always remembered for rising to the moment and facing the challenges with wisdom and courage.
For now, Pakistan has a long fight ahead like the other countries of the world against this pandemic, but the positive things are that in the form of Murad Ali Shah we have seen that if one decides to take on the battle against this pandemic, it can be contained, and at some time it will be defeated, as we human beings have been existing on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years and we will continue to exist because of our ability to survive in any condition.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari rising to the occasion and coming up with good ideas and uniting the political leadership is also a good sign that some of the country’s politicians have a sense of responsibility and they are owning this battle against the pandemic. It is the prime minister who needs to end his political “quarantine” and take the responsibility of leading this battle.
For now, it is Murad Ali Shah and Bilawal Bhutto who are leading the charge against the pandemic in Pakistan.

#coronavirusinpakistan - Behind Imran Khan’s reluctance to lockdown, lies interests of Pakistan business lobby


The business lobby who stand to be most hurt by such decisions finds ways to disguise its vested interests under the garb of some overriding national priority.

Who is advising Imran Khan to oppose lockdowns as a way of arresting the spread of the coronavirus? In my opinion, and I have good reason for holding this opinion, it is the industrialists of this country who are trying to convince the top leadership of this. But the same industrialists are now backing away from their opposition to lockdowns as the army has shown itself to be in favour of the strategy.
It is quite typical of this billionaire elite to couch their vested interests in some sort of overriding national priority. In times of economic adjustment, for example, they argued that textile exporters should get preferential access to natural gas at subsidised prices to help shore up the country’s foreign exchange reserves, and thereby prevent damage to the currency devaluations that bring inflation that hurts the poor.
They did not argue that they deserve preferential treatment and access to scarce gas resources so that they can make more money. That argument would not win them any concessions from the government. As it turned out, the way they framed their argument won them the concessions, and to this day the top leadership remains an ardent fan of subsidising gas and power prices for this segment, because the argument has been internalised that doing so will have a cascading series of beneficial consequences that will ultimately benefit the working poor.
Those of us who follow the economy and have observed the behaviour of the prime minister up close since he came to power have noticed the difficulty he has in making big decisions at critical times. He often hesitates when decisive action is needed that may well have adverse consequences in the short term, but which even basic common sense, let alone technical advice from the experts, tells us is necessary. He seems to lend his ear to all those who are arguing against such decisions, preferring the advice of those elements that echo his own fears.
Those in the business community who stand to be most hurt by the decisions that must be made find ways to disguise their vested interests in the language of some overriding national priority. This is precisely what happened in the run-up to the signing of the IMF programme, to take one example. There were many voices at the time saying that the circumstances called for an economic adjustment that would have a very adverse impact on business and the citizenry in general, with the recognition that there was no alternative. But between November and June, the government dithered, argued, bickered and even started speaking of a ‘home-grown programme’ around February or March of 2019, saying that maybe with all the money coming in from Saudi Arabia, China and the UAE, just maybe, there may not be any need for an adjustment after all.
That dithering and delay cost the country close to $6 billion, and eventually its hand had to be forced by replacing Asad Umar with an old school freelancer who had no compunctions about the costs of adjustment and who wasted no time in signing the dotted line with the IMF. I am reminded all over again of this story of how Pakistan embarked on its latest round of economic adjustment after a tortured path of dithering, pointless argumentation, while delusional hot takes floated on talk shows, all designed to obfuscate reality and deny the facts.
All along it was the billionaires of the business community who most dreaded the coming adjustment, even as they knew it to be inevitable. It was they who whispered complaints of the disconnect from reality that they perceived in the mind of the prime minister and his finance adviser. Later, as the adjustment got under way in earnest, it was they again who had to be called in by the army chief and told that the high interest rates and low public spending were here to stay and that they should cut out their public protestations on the direction of economic policy. They complied.
Today, all that is happening once again. It seems that one more time, the leadership has allowed itself to be talked into opposing the painful but necessary steps that the country has to take. After having climbed up the pole and publicly opposed lockdowns as a way of arresting the spread of the virus, the government finds that those who egged them on towards this path have suddenly fallen silent themselves, because the provincial authorities are moving decisively backed by the army.
A U-turn will now be difficult because the scale of the spread of the virus would then be blamed on the delay in ordering the lockdowns, just like the delay in getting onto an IMF programme was blamed for worsening the adverse impact of the ensuing adjustment. The central leadership’s hope now is that after a few days of lockdowns people will tire of the hardship that they bring and will begin to listen to it again. But if after that should come a spike in the number of people coming to the hospitals in dire need of critical care and quarantine, the hardship of the lockdown will again be forgotten.
Now, more than ever, the prime minister needs to make that U-turn for which he has become so famous. He is right that lockdowns will be very difficult to bear for the poor and the weak. But this is the time to support the efforts of the provincial governments that are racing to build social protection programmes and ramp up their healthcare systems and testing capabilities. Lockdowns coupled with these efforts is what it will take to get us through this challenge. The prime minister should take the lead in this and not be seen as obstructing the efforts of the provinces.