Malaysia reported another 12 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Friday, bringing the national total to 8,976.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement that five of the cases are imported and seven more are local transmissions.
One more death has been reported, with the victim having suffered from prior health problems before becoming infected, pushing the total deaths to 125.
Another 27 cases have been released, bringing the total cured and discharged to 8,644 or 96.3 percent of all cases.
Of the remaining 207 active cases, three are being held in intensive care and one is in need of assisted breathing.
The official also reminded the public to observe the standard operating procedures (SOP) and guidelines laid out by the government to ensure that the Eid al-Adha festival, which started Friday, would proceed safely.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 202,955 in Pakistan with 4,118 fatalities, according to the data released by the country's health ministry on Sunday morning.
A total of 4,072 new cases and 83 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the ministry said. The mortality rate of the COVID-19 infected patients is about 2 percent.
Overall, there are 106,213 active cases in Pakistan and 92,624 people have recovered, which is 45.6 percent of the total confirmed cases.
The country's southern Sindh province is the most affected region with 78,267 cases followed by eastern Punjab province with 74,202 cases, the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province reported 25,380 cases and 12,395 cases have been reported in the capital city Islamabad.
Punjab recorded 1,673 deaths followed by Sindh where 1,243 infected people have lost their lives, the statistics showed, adding that Pakistan has conducted 1,239,153 tests officially so far.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed hope that Pakistan will see off the worst of this crisis if the people follow the standard operating procedure (SOPs).
Earlier this month, Khan reiterated stance against violators of the SOPs to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country amid the recent surge in new cases.
A student walks through a disinfection gate before entering classroom at a high school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 24, 2020. The reopening of schools for middle schools senior grade students in Malaysia proceeded on Wednesday in compliance with new standard operating procedures (SOP), after a nearly three month closure due to the outbreak of COVID-19. (Photo by Chong Voon Chung/Xinhua)
United States Georgia State's Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Wednesday announced 11 charges, including felony murder, against Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks last week.
Rolfe, if found guilty of felony murder, could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty, Howard said at a press conference.
Rolfe was fired after footage showed him shooting at Brooks multiple times from the back as the 27-year-old African American man fled during an encounter outside a fast-food restaurant in Atlanta Friday night.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Rolfe and Devin Brosnan, the other officer on the scene.
Brosnan has been placed on administrative duty and charged with three criminal counts, including aggravated assault.
Howard also said that Rolfe kicked Brooks "while he laid on ground, while he was there fighting for his life" after he was shot.
Brosnan stood on Brooks' shoulders "while he struggled for his life," the district attorney revealed.
"Once Mr. Brooks was shot, there is an Atlanta policy that requires that the officers have to provide timely medical attention to Mr. Brooks or to anyone who is injured," he added. "But after Mr. Brooks was shot, for some period of two minutes and 12 seconds, there was no medical attention applied to Mr. Brooks."
That night, the pair of officers were dispatched to respond to complaints that Brooks was asleep in the drive-thru of the restaurant.
Police said they tried to take Brooks into custody after he failed a sobriety test, which led to a struggle between Brooks and the officers. Police claimed that Brooks, while allegedly resisting, grabbed an officer's taser and ran off with it.
Footage capturing the scene from the restaurant's parking lot showed that Brooks turned around and appeared to point the stun gun at Rolfe before being shot.
An ambulance transferred Brooks to a local hospital, where he died after undergoing surgery.
Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from organ damage and blood loss from the wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office ruled earlier this week.
"The city of Atlanta SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), in fact, prohibit officers from firing tasers at someone who is running away. So the city of Atlanta says you could not even fire a taser at someone who is running away. So you certainly can't fire a gun, a handgun at someone who is running away," Howard said on Wednesday.
L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the family of Rayshard Brooks, said that the incident is "heartbreaking."
"It's not a day of joy watching the charges and what's gonna happened to this officer because it shouldn't happen," Stewart said.
United States President Donald Trump weighed in on the case Wednesday night.
"I thought it was a terrible situation but you can't resist a police officer," he said in an interview with Fox News. "They ended up in a very terrible disagreement and look at the way it ended. Very bad."
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Republicans unveiled a bill on police reform amid calls for action against police brutality and racism after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The proposal, spearheaded by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, seeks to ban the use of chokeholds and includes new accountability and reporting requirements.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said on Wednesday that the Republican proposal "is missing meaningful accountability for individual officers' misconduct."
"Without accountability measures, we're merely exhorting police departments to be better, crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best," the New York Democrat added.
House Democrats introduced their bill last week that aims to ensure officers can be held accountable for misconduct and increase transparency. The House Judiciary Committee sent the package to the full House for consideration next week after a partisan 24-14 vote following a marathon 11-hour markup on Wednesday.
Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, late last month after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Protests in response to Floyd's death, and more broadly to police violence, spread across the United States and took place in some other countries.
South Asia has recently become a new hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic with a sharp surge in confirmed cases after a number of countries started to ease restrictions this month for reopening the economy.
In Bangladesh, amid a rapid increase of infections, the government was forced to reimpose a zone-based lockdown earlier this month, a few days after businesses were allowed to resume.
The South Asian country initially imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 26 to curb the spread of the virus, and later extended it for several times until May 30. The government then decided to relax the restrictions starting May 31, citing the lockdown's impact on the economy and people's lives.
However, as it slowly hit the economic restart button, a spurt of cases was seen with the daily caseload hovering around 3,000 and total cases almost doubling since June 1. On Tuesday, total cases in the country exceeded 94,000 after a record 3,862 new cases were detected in the last 24 hours.
Bangladesh is hardly the only South Asian country that is walking a tightrope between economic resumption and pandemic control.
India has become the fourth worst-hit country by COVID-19 after the United States, Brazil and Russia with its total cases reaching 343,091 including 9,900 deaths as of Tuesday.
India entered "Lockdown 5.0," or the fifth phase of the nationwide lockdown on June 1, with gradual relaxation of restrictions.
While the lockdown involving the world's second largest population was believed to be crucial and effective in preventing the rapid spread of the virus, it also badly hit the Indian economy.
"With the imposition of nationwide lockdown to contain COVID-19 pandemic nearly 60 percent of our economy was locked down. The lockdown triggered job losses and fuelled a massive reverse migration," Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist of India Ratings and Research, told Xinhua.
Millions of migrant laborers returned to their homes from big cities after the lockdown was imposed on March 25, some even walking up to 2,000 kilometers in the absence of public transport. Their future remained uncertain even as the country's economy is slowly reopening with minimal job opportunities in major cities.
Meanwhile, micro, small and medium enterprises were also hard-hit by the lockdown, according to Pant.
As an emergency relief, the Indian government chalked out a plan to provide employment at doorsteps, social welfare and a direct benefit scheme to migrant workers in over 100 districts in six states where the majority of them stayed during the lockdown.
The "Lockdown 5.0," also dubbed as "Unlock 1.0" which started on June 1, would have an economic focus, said the Indian government.
Hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and religious places were the first to be allowed to reopen, except in containment zones. The resumption of schools and international air travel may follow pending further assessment of the situation.
However, since June 1, around 8,000 to over 10,000 new cases along with hundreds of new deaths have been recorded every day and some experts expressed concern over a rushing resumption of business activities.
"The three important cities in India in terms of business activity, namely New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai are witnessing a sharp increase in the cases," Aakash Jindal, an Indian economist, told Xinhua.
"I do give stress to capital or money but for the economic activity to restart people should be medically fit and fine and not fearful of catching the infection or disease," said the expert.
Local authorities on Monday decided to declare a total lockdown in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state, where infections are raging.
In neighboring Pakistan, confirmed cases surged to 148,921 with 2,839 deaths as of Tuesday. Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said the current trajectory showed that cases could double by the end of June and reach 1 million to 1.2 million by the end of July.
The spike in cases came after the easing of the lockdown across the country since May.
In a recent address, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged people to follow anti-pandemic guidelines to slow down the spread of the disease as the option of locking down the whole country is not practicable in Pakistan.
"A lockdown does not mean it will end COVID-19. It can only slow down the spread of the virus. Sadly, the lockdown also slowed down the economy, creating hard times for our poor people. We have reopened the economy with SOPs (standard operating procedures) and precautions so our poor people can earn a livelihood," he said.
The World Bank projected Pakistan's economy to contract by 2.6 percent in the current 2019/20 fiscal year and shrink by 0.2 percent in the next fiscal year.
The country's finance ministry, meanwhile, estimated that some 3 million people associated with industrial and services sectors in the country are expected to lose their jobs, and the poverty level could rise to 33.5 percent from the current 24.3 percent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To support the poor population during the lockdown period, the Pakistani government offered support by providing 12,000 rupees (about 73 United States dollars) each in cash to those in the labor, poor and unemployed class.
As South Asian countries are striving to cope with rising COVID-19 cases, China is trying its best to offer help and support.
On June 8, Bangladesh welcomed the first foreign medical team to the country since the outbreak of the virus - a 10-member expert team from China.
The team from China's southernmost island province of Hainan shared experiences in pandemic prevention and control, and gave advices for Bangladesh on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantine.
The experts also visited local hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and offered on-site guidance on management of cases, treatment of patients and protection of frontline medical staff.
Apart from sending medical experts, starting from February, China has provided Bangladesh with over 3 million surgical and N-95 masks, over 110,000 sets of personal protective equipment, and a large number of test kits, thermometers, ventilators, and sanitizers to meet the most urgent needs of the country to contain COVID-19, according to Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming.
Meanwhile, China and Pakistan, as "iron brothers," have been standing firmly together and helping each other to fight COVID-19. Pakistan was among the first countries to show solidarity and offer aid when China was in a fierce battle against the virus. And since the outbreak occured in Pakistan, China has spared no efforts in providing all kinds of assistance to help its neighbor.
On Tuesday, Pakistan received the sixth and so far the largest batch of medical supplies donated by the Chinese government. The 68 tonnes of supplies included testing kits, protective suits, N95 masks and protective goggles.
Besides, China also sent medical teams to Pakistan to join the country's efforts to battle the virus.
The Chinese experts shared the know-hows in COVID-19 screening, testing, quarantine, diagnosis, treatment and prevention, offering advices on wearing masks, setting up isolation hospitals, enhancing testing and even giving instructions for frontline medical workers on how to properly put on protective gowns.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies and organizations such as the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and the Confucius Institute Islamabad, among others, have also donated anti-pandemic materials to Pakistan to help save lives and protect the people.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has surged to 132,405 after 6,472 people tested positive of the disease on Friday, the highest single-day spike since the outbreak of the disease in the country, according to the statistics released by the health ministry of Pakistan on Saturday.
A total of 2,551 people died of the disease whereas 50,056 others recovered from it. The mortality rate is 1.9 percent while the recovery rate has been reported as 37.8 percent.
East Punjab province has been worst-hit by the disease with 50,087 confirmed cases, followed by south Sindh province which reported 49,256 confirmed cases.
The spike in the cases has been witnessed in the aftermath of the easing of the lockdown across the country. The government and health authorities also blame negligence of standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the part of the general public as the major cause of the rapid spread of the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended Pakistan to consider imposing lockdown in the infection-rife areas for two weeks. Keeping the economic condition of the country into consideration, the local government has turned down the suggestion.
In a recent address, the country's Prime Minister Imran Khan urged people to follow the SOPs to slow down the spread of the disease as the option of locking down the whole country is not practicable in Pakistan.
"A lockdown does not mean it will end COVID-19. It can only slow down the spread of the virus. Sadly, the lockdown also slowed down the economy, creating hard times for our poor people. We have reopened the economy with SOPs and precautions so our poor people can earn a livelihood," he said.
Khan also said that the number of COVID-19 positive cases is feared to hit its peak by the end of July or beginning of August, and there might be difficult times ahead for the country if people keep on taking COVID-19 as a common flu, and do not follow the SOPs formed by the government to control the spread of the disease.
Pakistan has conducted 839,019 tests officially in total with 29,850 tests done on Friday, and the number of tests will be increased in the coming days due to the enhanced capacity in this field.
In a recent speech at the country's National Assembly or the lower house of the parliament, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Nausheen Hamid said that currently the country is conducting less than 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day whereas its laboratories have the capacity to undertake 46,000 tests per day, and the government is eyeing on enhancing the capacity to 50,000 per day on the recommendation of the WHO.
On Friday, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has also approved the country's first home-established testing kit.
The disease also affected many famous personalities in the country including celebrities, social workers and lawmakers. According to officials, over 40 lawmakers including leader of the opposition in the lower house of the parliament Shahbaz Sharif were infected.
Hundreds of doctors and frontline medical staff also contracted the disease, and some died of it. To address the problems of the medical staff, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza recently announced a seven-point package for the doctors, which will provide financial assistance, prioritized medical facilities, and insurance to the medical staff working at the frontline.
Pakistan reported its first two cases of the disease on Feb. 26 and a spike in the cases was witnessed in March after which the government imposed a lockdown across almost the whole country in the last week of March to stop the spread of the disease. All economic and social activities were halted, and only a few businesses including food and pharmaceutics were allowed to operate.
The lockdown was later lifted in phases in May owing to the financial problems faced by a large population who was already living under the poverty line, and those who became jobless due to the lockdown.
To support the poor population during the lockdown period, the government provided assistance support by providing 12,000 rupees (about 73 United States dollars) in cash to the labor, poor and unemployed class. The prime minister recently said that his government had successfully transferred 120 billion rupees (about 729 million United States dollars) in nine weeks to over 10 million deserving families in a transparent manner.
The disease and the lockdown had a serious economic repercussion. The recently released Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20 said that Pakistan's economy has been badly affected due to the COVID-19 outbreak through various channels like decline in domestic as well as global demand, downturn in tourism and business travel, trade and production linkages and supply disruptions.
"The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus since Feb. 2020 has brought economic activity to a near-halt," the survey said.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has implemented the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for the Apapa container shuttle.
The Lagos Railway District Manager, Mr Jerry Oche, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday.
Oche said that with the step, cargo transportation would be more efficient in and out of the port.
NAN reports that the SOPs are designed to help in fighting corruption and making the ports more viable for economic activity through the application of technology.
Key highlights of the SOPs for terminal operators are broadly similar and include standards for vessel reception, booking and positioning of containers, terminal delivery processes, invoicing and container return.
According to Oche, the SOP is between the NRC and APM Terminals, Apapa with Shippers’ Council as the supervisor.
“We have implemented the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for the Apapa container shuttle. The SOP is between NRC and APMT with Shippers’ Council as the supervisor.
“We intend to do two trains daily from the port.
“SOP is just a guidance for both the NRC and APMT. It states what APMT has to do for the operation to be efficient.
“It will bridge the communication lapses that exist between us.
“Now, each party knows what its roles are and it will make the whole operations to be more efficient. Based on the SOP, we are to do two trips every day – moving cargo in and out of the port,” the NRC boss said.
Oche, who expressed the corporation’s commitment and determination to decongest the ports, said that the NRC would not leave any stone unturned to change the narrative at the port through the freight services.
“A train is made up of 19 wagons and each of the wagons can take one 40 ft or two 20 ft containers.
“If we are doing 40 ft, that is 19 trucks off the road and if it is 20 ft, that is 38 trucks off the road per trip. We are starting with two trips per day and we hope to increase it in no distant time.
“Containers will be discharged at Alagomeji Terminals in Yaba and Ijoko Terminals in Ogun State.
“Trucks can then be deployed to both locations to collect containers and return empties, which the NRC will convey back to the port,” he added.
He said APM Terminals constructed the port’s rail line and connected it to the national line in 2013, to provide alternate to road transport for customers.
NAN reports that the NRC announced the suspension of the Lagos-Ogun Mass Transit Train Services (MTTS) on March 25 to contain the further spread of COVID-19 in the state and the country.
The MTTS is yet to resume.
Edited By: Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday reiterated his government's tough stance against violators of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb the spread of COVID-19 in his country amid recent surge in numbers of new cases.
Addressing the nation live at the state TV channel, the prime minister said the government would take strict actions against those who are violating the SOPs as the government feared that the number of confirmed cases and deaths of COVID-19 would further rise in the coming days and likely to hit its peak at the end of July or early August.
Pakistan has witnessed a sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases since the government lifted a weeks-long lockdown across the country last month, saying that 25 percent of the country's total population was facing harsh financial constraints due to lockdown.
As of Thursday morning, Pakistan's health ministry had confirmed 119,536 positive cases across the country, including 78,789 active cases, 2,356 deaths and 38,391 recoveries.
The prime minister said his government is working day and night untiringly to control the spread of the virus as well as to provide the best facilities to the needy and poor people, increasing laboratories capable to test the disease to 107 with ability to conduct 1.2 million tests per month.
A government survey released on Thursday said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought multifaceted challenges for Pakistan to preserve the economic gains achieved previously, saying that the rapid spread of the disease in the country "has brought economic activity to near-halt."
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization recommended Pakistan to adopt a "two weeks off and two weeks on" lockdown strategy to slow down the current fast spread of epidemic, but Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza said that the government has to make tough policy choices to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods.
The country's top health official added that the government is focused on enforcement of SOPs in shops, mosques and public transport and other crowded areas while easing lockdown restrictions.
In a televised address on Monday, the prime minister said that there might be difficult times ahead for the country if the people keep on taking COVID-19 as common flu, and do not follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) formed by the government to control the spread of the disease.
Khan urged the Pakistani people to follow the SOPs to slow down the spread of the disease as the option of locking down the whole country is not practicable in Pakistan.
"A lockdown does not mean it will end COVID-19. It can only slow down the spread of the virus. Sadly, the lockdown also slowed down the economy, creating hard times for our poor people. We have reopened the economy with SOPs and precautions so our poor people can earn a livelihood," he said.
Khan said that right now the government is making efforts to slow down the spread of the disease, "so that when we hit the peak, our hospitals are not overburdened and intensive care units are available during the peak. SOPs will help us achieve this."
The prime minister's address came after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 100,000 in the country. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has risen to 103,671 with 2,067 deaths, according to the data updated by the country's health ministry Monday.
"No mask, no service" is the message written on the entrance door of one of the most popular bakeries Tehzeeb Bakers, in the federal capital of Islamabad as customers make queues to buy their all-time favorite desserts, cakes, loaded pizzas and other delicious grilled stuff.
The staff were also asking customers to sanitize their hands before entering the premises of the bakery, and allowing only a few persons at a time inside to maintain social distancing to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are taking precautionary measures and implementing government-set standard operating procedures (SOPs), not just for the sake of our safety, but for other citizens as well to protect them and their loved ones from the deadly virus," Muhammad Khalid, the manager of the bakery, told Xinhua.
The disease has been wreaking havoc and the number of cases and deaths has been skyrocketing in Pakistan over the last couple of days as the government eased lockdown restrictions, he said.
"We cannot afford to shut down our businesses for months as most of us do not have enough money to afford two meals a day without working," Khalid said, adding "now people need to understand that we can only remain safe from the disease while keeping our livelihood secure by strictly following the SOPs."
In May, Pakistan announced to ease the lockdown in a phased manner after imposing it for nearly one and a half months to protect people and keep the wheel of economy running.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that the country cannot afford another lockdown, urging people to follow the SOPs to curb the spread of the virus.
"Even now, if the people are made to take precautions and follow the SOPs, I am sure we will not have to go through tough times other countries are going through," Khan said, adding that by following the SOPs, the infection curve can be flattened, which would reduce pressure on hospitals.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has surged to 103,671 with 2,067 deaths, according to the data updated by the country's health ministry on Monday.
Although the country has been witnessing the highest number of positive cases over the last few days, the World Health Organization on Friday said that "the disease has not exploded (in Pakistan), but there is always the risk of that happening."
In a conversation with Xinhua, Zafar Mahmood, professor of economics at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, said it was simple to forecast that the situation in Pakistan would aggravate and the number of COVID-19 patients would increase dramatically if people takes a casual attitude for the SOPs.
"Countries like Pakistan cannot afford a complete lockdown. The intent behind relaxing the restrictions was to save the underprivileged and national economy," Mahmood said, adding that the opening of businesses was inevitable keeping in view the debilitating financial conditions of the people.
Along with easing lockdown restrictions, the government has been constantly issuing warnings to the people to be more cautious and maintain social distancing while running their businesses to arrest the spread of the disease, he said. "It is not simple for any government alone to defeat the virus. Rather, public cooperation and support is of paramount importance."
To ensure the implementation of the SOPs at crowded areas including public places, markets, malls, shops, and the mosques, the government has constituted special teams that will operate across the country to ensure that the SOPs are being implemented, imposing a fine upon violation.
Authorities in various parts of the country also initiated a crackdown on violators of the SOPs and shut down several overcrowded markets and imposed fines.
The government recently launched media campaigns as well to educate masses about the infectious disease and voluntary compliance with the SOPs.
Naseem Akhtar, an assistant professor on infectious diseases at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad said the adverse impacts of the pandemic could be minimized only by adopting the preventive guidelines issued by the government and health experts.
Akhtar told Xinhua that the pace of spread of the virus can be slowed down to certain limits if not fully eradicated by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and caring for personal hygiene.