Dubai, Feb. 16, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) Iran on Saturday warned neighbouring Pakistan it would “pay a heavy price’’ for allegedly harbouring militants, who killed 27 of its elite Revolutionary Guards in a suicide bombing near the border earlier this week, state television reported.
Revolutionary Guards Chief, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, also accused Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of supporting militant Sunni groups that attack Iranian forces.
Jafari, however, said they could face “reprisal operations’’.
But Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE deny backing such militants.
“Why do Pakistan’s army and security body give refuge to these anti-revolutionary groups?
“Pakistan will no doubt pay a high price,” Jafari said in remarks live on state television.
“Just in the past year, six or seven suicide attacks were neutralised but they were able to carry out this one,’’ Jafari told the mourners, who packed a square in the central city of Isfahan and roads leading to it.
However, the Sunni group, Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The treacherous Saudi and UAE Governments should know that Iran’s patience has ended and we will no longer stand your secret support for these anti-Islam criminals.
“We will avenge the blood of our martyrs from the Saudi and UAE governments and ask the President Hassan Rouhani to leave our hands free more than ever for reprisal operations,’’ Jafari told the crowd, drawing chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).
Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim authorities say militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and have repeatedly called on the neighbouring country to crack down on them.
Jafari’s remarks came amid heightening regional tensions after Israel and the Gulf Arab states attended a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw this week where the U.S. hoped to ratchet up pressure against Iran. (Reuters/NNN)
Edited by Abiodun Oluleye/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Pakistan launches phase III trial of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine
Though the country enjoys a sharp decline in new infections that has encouraged authorities to lift all virus-related restrictions.
“Just launched the phase 3 trials of a Covid-19 vaccine in Pakistan,” Umar said.
A total of 40,000 people – including 10,000 Pakistanis – will participate in this trial in seven countries, Umer said.
The initial results are expected in four to six months, he added.
Trials of the vaccine candidate, developed by biopharmaceutical company CanSinoBio and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, are already under way in Argentina, Chile, China and Russia.
According to the National Institute of Health, which oversees the process, the first and second phase trials of the vaccine candidate, completed in May and June respectively, have shown promising results.
Several Chinese companies have joined in the global race to develop a vaccine to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China late 2019.
Pakistan has witnessed a sharp decline in new COVID-19 infections since July.
That prompted the government to lift restrictions.
Earlier this month, Pakistan allowed schools to reopen.
The country has so far reported 306,866 COVID-19 infections and 6,424 deaths.
According to the health ministry, 582 new cases were reported during the last 24 hours, out of 36,155 tests.
Pakistan, China’s neighbour and long-time political ally, relies heavily on Beijing’s support for its troubled economy, which was struck hard by the pandemic.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Sadiya Hamza
COVID-19: PTF warns against neglect of protocols
He said that there were increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven to be very successful.
He said face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era.
Mustapha, however, called for vigilance in order to forestall any danger of second wave of the pandemic as the countries in Europe were currently facing.
According to him, the call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through our home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
” Also, our health systems, in spite of its fragility, have been able to withstand and contain cases resulting from COVID-19 infection, where those of more advanced countries have been overwhelmed.
“This call is made more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful.
“Face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era,” he said.
Speaking on the second wave of the virus across the world, the PTF chairman said, “Israel has re-introduced a three-week lockdown, the United Kingdom was considering another lockdown phase, Spain was enforcing a partial lockdown in Madrid and France – amidst protests by its citizens.
“They have also introduced stricter measures to contain the virus. Similar stories are coming from South Korea, Iran and the number of fatalities is approaching 200,000 in the USA.
“The World Health Organisation(WHO), has advised that everybody should learn from lessons of the first wave, especially as ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’.
“Let me share with you a global picture to buttress the foregoing. Over the last three days, the global cases passed the 31 million mark and it took only four days to get there from the 30th million.
“The USA crossed 7 million cases and continues to report a high daily caseload of over 30, 000 daily. We continue to see highest daily numbers from India.
“More specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria, is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have opened our air spaces to international travels, we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees.”
On the reopening of airports for international travels, Mustapha noted that the PTF would continue to work with partners from the private sector to fine tune the protocols for international travellers, especially those arriving in Nigeria.
He, however, urged all travellers to ensure that they complete all pre-boarding and post-arrival processes, especially on the portal to facilitate seamless arrivals at the airports.
“We cannot afford the importation of the virus.
“We appeal strongly to all Nigerians to persuade their relations arriving Nigeria to self-isolate upon arrival, as required and test on day seven as prescribed,”
Edited By: Felix Ajide
Russia conducts its largest 2020 military exercise in Caucasus
Russia began its largest military exercise of this year on Monday in the southern part of the country’s Caucasus region, with about 80,000 troops to participate.
Forces from Russian allies Belarus, China, Armenia, Myanmar and Pakistan are taking part to strengthen coordination in joint military efforts, Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The Caucasus-2020 exercise is to take place for five days at military bases in southern Russia and in the Black and Caspian seas, the statement said.
Russian media reported that Iranian forces would participate in naval drills in the Caspian Sea.
The exercise is to focus on combating cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as electronic warfare activities, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed
Pakistan resumes polio vaccination drive after hiatus due to pandemic
Tens of thousands of health workers across Pakistan started the first polio vaccination drive in several months, amid a continuing fall in coronavirus cases, officials said on Monday.
Around 40 million children are to be vaccinated for the crippling disease, which has been eradicated around the world aside from in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it remains prevalent.
The drive, which is part of a UN-funded campaign, is due to run for a week and targets all children under the age of five, said Safdar Rana, the doctor who heads Pakistan’s anti-polio programme.
Healthcare workers administering the vaccine are to be guarded by thousands of police and troops in regions where they are routinely attacked by militants.
Pakistan launched a polio vaccine drive nationwide in February and had planned further campaigns during the year, after a warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the risk of a new epidemic.
But the campaign was suspended for several months due to the novel coronavirus. The number of polio cases has risen steeply during that time.
“We will have to move swiftly to cover the backlog,” Rana said in a video statement.
So far this year, 73 children have been infected with polio in Pakistan, according to official statistics. There were 147 cases in 2019.
After peaking at 306 in 2014, polio cases had fallen to a single-digit figure in 2017, before rising again in recent years.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed