Monday , 18 January 2021

Latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from Pakistan and around the world


Pakistan’s COVID-19 tally rose to 386,198 on Thursday after 3,306 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours across the country.

The province-wise break up of the total number of cases as of 9:00 am, November 26, is as follows:

Total confirmed cases: 386,198

• Sindh: 167,381

• Punjab: 116,506

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 45,828

• Balochistan: 16,942

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 28,555

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 4,583

• AJK: 6,403

Deaths: 7,843

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 1,344

• Punjab: 2,923

• Sindh: 2,866

• Balochistan: 165

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 96

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 297

• AJK: 152

More than 60,333,049 infections have been confirmed globally with over 1,420,462 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University tally.


8:17pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh allows markets to operate till 8pm


7:17pm — Quetta, Pakistan — Balochistan orders closure of educational institutions

Balochistan government’s spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani has said that the province has ordered for all schools to be closed in the light of the virus’s second wave.

The schools of cool areas will remain closed till February 28, 2021, while those in other areas will remain shut till January 21. 

Meanwhile, colleges and other educational institution to remain closed from November 26 – December 24, he added.


6:28pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh Bar Council delays elections

The Sindh Bar Council has delayed their upcoming elections — scheduled for November 28 — in the wake of the coronavirus’s second wave.

The returning officer said that a date for the elections would be announced later.


5:50pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh reports 19 deaths, 1,402 infections

Sindh has reported 19 more coronavirus deaths and 1,402 infections, the chief minister Murad Ali Shah said.

The chief minister said that the death toll had reached 2,885, while the cases stood at 148,313.


5:30pm — Karachi, Pakistan — traders bodies demand 10am-8pm business hours

Various traders, merchants, and businessmen in Pakistan’s financial capital have demanded the government of Sindh allow their shops to open at 10am and conclude daily operations at 8pm amid the new measures taken to curb the rising coronavirus cases.

The merchants’ demands were announced Thursday during a joint press conference by the Karachi Electronics Dealers Association, Sindh Tajir Ittehad, and other traders’ bodies of the metropolis.

The business fraternity warned of staging sit-ins outside the markets if the coronavirus measures were imposed without their agreement.

“We have unanimously decided that shops will only close at 8pm,” Sindh Tajir Ittehad Chairperson Jameel Paracha said, but refused to shut down the shops on Fridays.

“If we are forced to do so, we will hold sit-ins outside the markets,” Paracha warned. “Many businesses were forced to shut down during the first wave of the coronavirus and the torrential rains,” he added, appealing to the Sindh government to “have mercy on the traders”.


4:50pm — Shanghai, China — With frozen food clampdown, China points overseas as source of coronavirus

As global COVID-19 infections surge, China is pushing a narrative via state media that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered late last year in the central city of Wuhan, where it was traced to a seafood market, according to Reuters.

Chinese state media have cited the presence of the coronavirus on imported frozen food packaging, as well as scientific papers claiming that the coronavirus was circulating in Europe earlier than previously believed, as evidence that China may not have been its origin.

“#COVID19 did not start in central China’s Wuhan but may come through imported frozen food and packaging: experts,” said a Wednesday Facebook post by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

Unlike other countries, China cites frozen food packaging as a risk of spreading COVID-19. It has stepped up inspections and made a spate of announcements that the virus was found on chilled food packaging, prompting rejections of goods and complaints from exporters, even though the World Health Organisation says neither food nor packaging is a known transmission route.


4:22pm — Tbilisi, Georgia — Georgia introduces new restrictions for two months

Georgia is to introduce more coronavirus restrictions including new curfew hours, the closure of most shops, restaurants, swimming pools and gyms and the restriction of transport and a ban on sports and cultural events, Reuters reports.

The South Caucasus country’s prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia, said on Thursday the new measures would come into force on Saturday and last until Jan. 31. Restrictions will be temporarily eased from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 and on Jan. 6-7 for the Orthodox Christmas.

He said a curfew would be imposed across the country, instead of only in big cities, and would start one hour earlier, at 10pm, and last until 5am, restricting the movement of pedestrians and vehicles.

All restaurants, cafes, open markets, shopping malls, swimming pools and gyms will be closed for two months, although food delivery, drive-in and take-away services will be allowed.

Banks, grocery shops, pet shops, pharmacies, agrarian markets will work with no restrictions.

Hotels will be used only for people infected with the coronavirus and all winter resorts will be closed. The movement of private cars and taxis is not restricted.

Gakharia said that 80% of employees would be moved to online working, online study at schools and universities would continue while state and private kindergartens would close.

The country of 3.7 million people has already made it mandatory to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.


4:00pm — New Delhi, India — India’s COVID-19 tally tops 9 million

India’s COVID-19 tally reached 9,222,216 on Wednesday as 44,376 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, said the latest data from the federal health ministry.

According to the data, the death toll mounted to 134,699, with 481 deaths since Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, it was the first time in almost a week that the daily spike of cases fell below the 40,000 mark, and the daily deaths fell below the 500 mark.

However, Delhi has seen a sudden spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases. As many as 6,224 new cases and 109 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, and the Indian capital still has 38,501 active cases, showed the official data

There are still 444,746 active cases in the country, while 8,642,771 people have been discharged from hospitals after medical treatment, added the ministry’s latest data.

The Indian government’s focus has been on ramping up COVID-19 testing facilities across the country. As of Tuesday, a total of 134,841,307 tests were conducted, out of which 1,159,032 tests were conducted on Tuesday alone, said the data released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting with chief ministers of states via videoconferencing to review the status and preparedness of COVID-19 response and management.

Hundreds of temporary shelters have been set up in New Delhi to help the homeless and poor population get through the cold winter, which will, as many experts are concerned, impose greater challenges to epidemic control work.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has authorized all states to enact their own curfew regulations from Dec 1 to 31, to avoid massive gatherings during the wedding season and holidays.


3:45pm — Quetta, Pakistan — Balochistan govt notifies closure of colleges, polytechnic institutes 

Balochistan government on Thursday issued a notification ordering the closure of private and government colleges and polytechnic institutions.

The notification said that the decision has been taken to protect students from the recent spread of the coronavirus. It added that only the administrative staff will be allowed to come to the schools


3:30pm — Berlin, Germany — Germany wants ski resorts closed but hard to get deal with neighbour Austria

Germany wants Alpine countries to keep ski resorts closed to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, but reaching an agreement with neighbouring Austria is proving difficult, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

“The ski season is approaching. We will be trying to coordinate in Europe whether we could close all ski resorts,” Merkel told parliament, adding that this might not be possible given resistance from Austria, but Germany would try again.

In the first wave of the coronavirus at the start of the year, many Germans were infected at the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl. Germany last month issued travel warnings for popular ski regions in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows.

Austria’s nationwide lockdown is due to be lifted on Dec. 7, but it is not clear what that will mean for the ski sector. Austria has been lukewarm about common European rules.


2:45pm — Manila, Philippines — Philippines, private firms to sign vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca

The Philippines is set to sign a supply agreement for AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, the first such deal in a country aiming to further reopen its economy that has been ravaged by the pandemic.

Carlito Galvez, a top coronavirus task force official, told a media briefing the deal would be for two million doses. However, Joey Concepcion, a government business adviser, told Reuters the private sector was aiming to procure more than that.

The deal will augment government efforts to lock in supplies to inoculate around two-thirds of its 108 million population, and is another boost for AstraZeneca, which has already signed supply deals for more than three billion doses of its experimental vaccine developed with the University of Oxford.

The private firms will pay for the vaccine and donate half of the supply to the government, with the other half to be used to cover employees in the private sector, Concepcion said, without identifying the private companies.


2:30pm — Stockholm, Sweden — Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and wife test positive for coronavirus

Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and his wife Princess Sofia have tested positive for COVID-19, the Swedish royal court said on Thursday.

The two are feeling well under the circumstances, the court said in a statement, adding that King Karl XIV Gustaf, Queen Silvia, the prince’s older sister Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel would be tested during the day.

Carl Philip is fourth in the line of succession to the Swedish throne.


2:15pm — Khushab Pakistan — Tiger force checks coronavirus SOPs at barber shop

Prime Minister’s Corona Relief Tiger Force members check the coronavirus SOPs at a barber shop in Khushab District. 


1:45pm — Berlin, Germany — Germany’s COVID restrictions likely to continue in January: Merkel

Restrictive measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Germany will be in place until at least the end of December and possibly longer, Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament on Thursday.

“Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrictions which are in place before Christmas will be continue to be valid until the start of January, certainly for most parts of Germany,” said Merkel.

“We have to say, unfortunately, that we cannot promise an easing for Christmas and New Year’s,” she added.


1:30pm — Helsinki, Finland — Finland’s COVID-19 situation worsening rapidly, says PM

Finland’s coronavirus situation has worsened rapidly in recent days, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday.

Finland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 75.8 on Wednesday, Europe’s second lowest level behind Iceland, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed, but the Finnish government warned the number of new cases was rising at a worrying pace. 


1:00pm —  Paris, France — Post-COVID normal life could return to France by autumn 2021, says scientific adviser

People in France could return to some form of normal life by autumn 2021 provided that a major vaccination programme to tackle the COVID-19 virus works well, French government scientific adviser Arnaud Fontanet told BFM TV on Thursday.

Fontanet, a leading epidemiologist, said France needed to get vaccines to 80%-90% of its population for a semblance of normality to return by autumn of 2021.


12:45pm — Moscow, Russia — Russia reports record highs of 25,487 new coronavirus cases, 524 deaths

Russia reported a record high of 25,487 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the national tally to 2,187,990.

Authorities also reported a record high of 524 deaths related to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 38,062.


12:15pm — Disney to lay off about 32,000 workers in first half of 2021

Walt Disney Co said on Wednesday it would lay off 32,000 workers, primarily at its theme parks, an increase from the 28,000 it announced in September, as the company struggles with limited customers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs will be in the first half of 2021, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earlier this month, Disney said it was furloughing additional workers from its theme park in Southern California due to uncertainty over when the state would allow parks to reopen.

Disney’s theme parks in Florida and those outside the United States reopened earlier this year without seeing new major coronavirus outbreaks but with strict social distancing, testing and mask use.

Disneyland Paris was forced to close again late last month when France imposed a new lockdown to fight a second wave of the coronavirus cases.

The company’s theme parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo remain open.


12:30pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh Health Dept shares list of vacant beds for COVID patients  


12:00pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — DC office closed ‘temporarily’ after cases detected 

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad’s office has been shut down “temporarily” after multiple positive cases were detected, confirmed Hamza Shafqat.

“Facilitation center at G-11/4 will stay open for all essential services,” said the DC, adding that the employees of his office were also being tested.     


11:45am — Moscow, Russia — Moscow extends self-isolation period for COVID-19 risk groups until Jan 15

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Thursday extended a recommended self-isolation period for residents older than 65 and those in COVID-19 risk groups through New Year until January 15 as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

Virus cases have surged nationwide since September, but authorities have resisted imposing a stringent lockdown, saying that targeted measures should be enough.

Sobyanin also said at least that 30% of staff at companies in the capital who had already been told to work remotely as a precaution should continue to do so until January 15.

Moscow, a bustling city of more than 12.5 million people, reports thousands of new coronavirus cases on a daily basis. 


11:30am  — Sudan’s former PM Sadiq al-Mahdi dies from coronavirus in UAE

Leading Sudanese politician and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi died from a coronavirus infection three weeks after being hospitalised in the United Arab Emirates, according to family sources and a party statement early on Thursday (November 26).

Mahdi, 84, was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and was overthrown in 1989 in the military coup that brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power.

The moderate Umma Party was one of the largest opposition parties under Bashir, and Mahdi remained an influential figure even after Bashir was toppled in 1989.

Last month, al-Mahdi’s family said he had tested positive for COVID-19, and was transferred to the UAE for treatment a few days later following a brief hospitalisation in Sudan.

In a statement, the Umma Party said Mahdi would be buried on Friday morning in the city of Omdurman in Sudan.


11:15am — Multan, Pakistan — Multan to expand smart lockdown in city

District authorities in Multan have decided to expand the smart lockdown imposed in different areas of the city due to increasing coronavirus cases.

According to a notification, the smart lockdown has been imposed in Usman Colony, Siddiqui block, Islampura and Chah Korey Wala.


11:00am — Berlin, Germany — Germany’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rise by 22,268

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday. The reported death toll rose by 389 to 15,160, the tally showed.


10:45am — Karachi, Pakistan — SHC issues new rules for courts  

Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday issued new rules to be followed in the premises due to the second wave of the coronavirus.

The SHC directed police officials posted at the court gates to wear masks and avoid shaking hands. It also added that temperature will be checked of anyone coming in the courtroom and will also have to wear a mask.

The court also stated that hand sanitizers should be installed at the courts and also ordered that the windows remain open. The SHC has also directed officials to spray the courtrooms with disinfectants daily.

The circular also stated that only lawyers that have their cases will be allowed to enter the courtrooms. It also directed court officials to report to the authorities if any member of their family tests positive for the virus.


10:15am — Seoul, South Korea — South Korea reports biggest COVID-19 spike since March

South Korea reported 583 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest since March, as it grapples with a third wave of infections that appears to be worsening despite tough new social distancing measures.

The government reimposed strict social distancing rules on Seoul and surrounding regions this week, only a month after they had been eased following the second wave of infections.

Now some experts say the government moved too early to relax those rules, as the daily official case tally exceeds 500 for the first time since March 6.

Of the latest cases, 553 were locally transmitted and almost 73% of those were in the greater Seoul area, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Total infections in South Korea stand at 32,318, with 515 deaths.


10:00am — Karachi, Pakistan — Bilawal Bhutto goes into self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced on Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for COVID-19 and am self isolating with mild symptoms,” tweeted the PPP chairman.

Bilawal said that he will continue working from home, adding that he will address the PPP foundation day gathering via a video link.

“Wear a mask everyone, see you on the other side,” said Bilawal.

Read more here


9:45am — Christchurch, New Zealand — Six members of Pakistan squad in New Zealand test positive for coronavirus

Six members of the Pakistan contingent that have travelled to New Zealand have tested positive for the coronavirus, confirmed the New Zealand Cricket Board on Thursday.

“NZC was made aware today that six members of the Pakistan touring squad, currently in managed isolation in Christchurch, have tested positive for COVID-19,” said the board in a statement.

The board said that two out of the six were cases of reinfection, while the other four were marked as “new”. It added that following the test results the six individuals will be moved to the “quarantine arm of the managed isolation facility”.

Read more here.


9:30am — Seoul, South Korea — S Korea, China top diplomats vow to work on COVID-19

The foreign ministers of South Korea and China pledged on Thursday to work together to advance bilateral ties and tackle regional and global issues including stalled nuclear talks involving North Korea and the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha held talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi who arrived in Seoul late on Wednesday, after spending two days in Tokyo amid talk of a trip to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Wang said his visit was to highlight the importance of bilateral relations as the two countries cooperate as “strategic partners” on defending regional peace and stability and promote global governance.

“The COVID-19 crisis could not defeat the citizens of our two countries,” he told Kang at the start of the meeting, through an interpreter.

“The bilateral ties have overcome the COVID-19 ordeals and are showing their strength and ever more vigour.”


9:15am — Mumbai, India — India records 44,489 new coronavirus cases

India recorded 44,489 new coronavirus infections, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday, the 19th straight day that single-day cases have stayed below the 50,000 mark.

India’s coronavirus tally now stands at 9.27 million, the second-highest in the world, after the United States.

Deaths rose by 524, taking the total to 135,223.


9:00am — Beijing, China — China reports 21 new COVID-19 cases, including 9 local infections

China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday that it received reports of 21 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland Wednesday, including nine domestically transmitted cases and 12 imported ones.

The domestically transmitted cases were reported in Inner Mongolia region, the commission said in its daily report.

Three new suspected cases related to the disease were reported on Wednesday, the commission said.

No new deaths were reported on the day.

On Wednesday, 20 COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospital after recovery, while 925 close contacts were cleared to go home after completing medical observation. The number of critical cases was one more than the day before.

The existing number of confirmed imported cases was 278, including three severe cases on Wednesday, and by then the mainland had reported a total of 3,821 imported cases with no fatality. Of the imported cases, 3,543 had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

As of Wednesday, a total of 86,490 confirmed cases had been reported on the mainland, and 81,550 of the patients had been discharged after recovery, with a death toll of 4,634. A total of 877,922 close contacts had been traced and 10,768 of them remained under medical observation.

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