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Don't Shun Modern Science and Technology: Muslim Leaders, Clerics to Tablighi Jamaat Workers

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Apr 2020

Members associated with the organisation refuted allegations by some experts, who said the group largely followed a non-consultative approach with other Muslim organisations.


• Don't Shun Modern Science and Technology: Muslim Leaders, Clerics to Tablighi Jamaat Workers

• Appeal People Not to Visit Places of Worship During Lockdown: Islamic Centre to Religious Leaders

• If Saudi Arabia Is Forced to Put the Hajj on Hold, It Will Not Be Without Precedent

• Amid Virus, Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Religious, Political Gatherings in Afghanistan

• Fight Erupts at White House Over Drug Trump Suggests For COVID-19

• Mujlisul Ulama and Jamiatul Ulama: 'Lockdown Regulations Have Caused Spiritual Depression to Muslims'

• Muslim Professionals Raise Funds for Frontlines' PPE In Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi

• Spared So Far, Israel's Arab Community Fears Ramadan Could Spark Coronavirus Outbreak

• Govt Cancels Baisakhi Celebrations at Gurdwara Punja Sahib

• The UK Is in Denial About Its Post-Coronavirus Status In The World. Former Colonies Won’t Need Us, We’ll Need Them



• Don't Shun Modern Science and Technology: Muslim Leaders, Clerics to Tablighi Jamaat Workers

• Appeal People Not to Visit Places of Worship During Lockdown: Islamic Centre to Religious Leaders

• Unidentified Men Open Fire at Gurugram Mosque, FIRFiled

• Coronavirus update: 25 Muslim men arrested for attacking police during Odisha town shutdown

• Test For COVID-19 Or Face Action: Himachal Pradesh To Islamic Sect Members

• Delhi: Mosque allegedly attacked in Alipur, minorities panel urges police to take proper action

• Coronavirus in India: Mumbai Police files FIR against Mosque trustee, 3 Filipinos for violating orders

• Delhi Police urges Muslims to stay at home on Shab-e-Barat amid lockdown

• 10 foreigners who stayed in Vashi mosque after attending Tablighi Jamaat event booked

• Covid-19: Muslim IAS, IPS officers urge community to cooperate with health workers

• Karnataka MP Calls Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat Event ‘Corona Jihad’

• 8 Malaysians Linked To Delhi Mosque Event Caught Before Taking Special Flight

• "Come Out In 24 Hours": Uttarakhand Top Cop To Mosque Event Participants


Arab world

• If Saudi Arabia Is Forced to Put the Hajj on Hold, It Will Not Be Without Precedent

• Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: No Room For Political Differences To Coronavirus Battle

• Oil Prices Fall Sharply As OPEC+ Meeting Delayed, Stocks Jump on Virus Slowdown

• KSA Steps Up Efforts to Repatriate Saudi Citizens

• UAE's top banks reveal exposure to troubled hospital group NMC Health

• Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Directs Shura Council to Hold Sessions via Virtual Network

• UAE car listings fall by half amid coronavirus pandemic: Report

• Coronavirus: Oman reports 33 new cases, raising total to 331

• Coronavirus: Dubai launches movement permit website, waives fines between April 4-5

• Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia records 61 new cases, bringing total to 2,463


South Asia

• Amid Virus, Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Religious, Political Gatherings in Afghanistan

• 39 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Uruzgan and Zabul airstrikes

• Airstrike destroys key Taliban compound in Balkh province

• Will defend our Afghan partners if attacked: U.S. military in Afghanistan

• Coronavirus: Mosques in Afghanistan urged to change call to prayer

• First Afghan doctor dies of coronavirus disease in Kabul city

• Noor lashes out at Rabbani, Abdullah and Saleh for indecent Facebook comments

• 30 new positive cases of coronavirus recorded in Afghanistan


North America

• Fight Erupts at White House Over Drug Trump Suggests For COVID-19

• at NYC’s Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

• CAIR Urges Maryland Muslims to Join Sunday Statewide ‘Day of Prayer’

• Watch Israel's Merkava Tank Brush Off an Attack from Islamic Jihad's Drone

• US, UK Brace for Soaring Death Tolls as Pandemic Bears Down

• Trump: US expresses well wishes to Britain's Boris Johnson after covid-19 hospitalization



• Mujlisul Ulama and Jamiatul Ulama: 'Lockdown Regulations Have Caused Spiritual Depression to Muslims'

• WHO Africa hosts hackathons, offers seed funds to fight COVID-19

• Coronavirus shutdowns keep African elite from seeking medical care abroad

• Cyril Ramaphosa: Africa United In Fight Against Coronavirus

• South Sudan 51st of 54 African nations to report virus case


Southeast Asia

• Muslim Professionals Raise Funds for Frontlines' PPE In Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi

• Coronavirus: West Java governor calls on Jakarta residents to stay home during Ramadan

• AM Best revises Qatar Islamic Insurance Group’s outlook to ‘positive’

• Why favour ‘haram’ product during MCO? Bersatu Youth asks ‘Malay-Muslim’ govt

• With Hate & Spite from Hadi – More Lies In The Name Of Islam Against Pakatan

• Jakarta’s streets stand deserted during COVID-19 emergency

• Malaysia detains boatload of 202 suspected Rohingya Muslims



• Spared So Far, Israel's Arab Community Fears Ramadan Could Spark Coronavirus Outbreak

• Iran Producing Favipiravir For First Time to Treat Coronavirus: Senior Doctor

• Israel Keeps 200 Palestinian Children in Prisons In Inhumane Conditions: Palestinian Commission

• Israeli forces rearrest Palestinian governor of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds

• Yemeni army refutes Saudi allegation of attack on oil pipeline in Ma’rib

• China leading fight against COVID-19, aiding world countries: Iran FM spokesperson

• Iranians join forces to produce masks in battle against coronavirus

• US hampering Iran's coronavirus fight, crime against humanity: Shamkhani



Govt Cancels Baisakhi Celebrations at Gurdwara Punja Sahib

31 pilgrims brought from Taftan to quarantine facilities in Pindi, Taxila

Overcrowding in jails declared unconstitutional by IHC

Use of plasma allowed for treating Covid-19 patients in KP

Govt’s reluctance to restore PMDC may jeopardise career of thousands of doctors

Body formed in Sindh to finalise guidelines for reopening industries



The UK Is in Denial About Its Post-Coronavirus Status In The World. Former Colonies Won’t Need Us, We’ll Need Them

Police Investigate UK Far-Right Groups Over Anti-Muslim Coronavirus Claims

British PM Boris Johnson admitted to hospital for Covid-19 tests

There With You: Barking Mosque a real pillar of the community during coronavirus crisis

Worry prices could rise again in Bradford as Ramadan approaches

Coronavirus in Karakol: After return from India, man travels from Bishkek by minibus, visits mosque, invites neighbours for tea

Family's thanks for extraordinary efforts to allow 104-year-old's Islamic funeral to take place

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Don't Shun Modern Science and Technology: Muslim Leaders, Clerics to Tablighi Jamaat Workers

Apr 06, 2020

New Delhi: Muslim leaders across the country have advised Tablighi Jamaat workers to not “shun modern science or technology, be informed and restrict Deen ka kaam (religious work) to your own families for now”.

Most of the Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders that ET spoke to unequivocally condemned the approach of the group even as they questioned the role of the administration in not taking adequate steps to disperse.

the crowd earlier.

All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqui said the Jamaat head Maulana Sa'ad has to apologise and not just to the community but to the nation. “He should take responsibility, come forward and own up to what has happened. This is the time we should have been fighting this together. Not making it difficult for others.”

Farooqui said the members of Tablighi Jamaat have never been associated with anti-social activities. “But now, if the reports that are coming up, of some people disregarding the efforts of medical professionals, are true, then that behaviour is condemnable. This is not what the legacy of the group is.”

Cleric Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali, Imam of Lucknow Eidgah said “an impartial and a time-bound enquiry" into what happened at the Markaz would reveal a lot. “But it has to be told very clearly that the Quran encourages you to research. The Prophet himself has asked to take precautions, follow community guidelines at the time of crisis. It is non- Islamic to dishonour the efforts of doctors.”

Chairman of All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council, Syed Naseeruddin Chisty of Ajmer Dargah told ET that the members of the Tablighi Jamaat, by accompanying international tourists to Indian households and mosques, had risked several lives.

“The need of the hour is for the members to understand the gravity of what they have done. The Jamaatis need to keep themselves informed of the situation around them and see how they can help,” he said.

Members associated with the organisation, however, said the activities of the Jamaat were “voluntary”. They refuted allegations by some experts, who said the group largely followed a non-consultative approach with other Muslim organisations.

According to an IT professional who works in Gurgaon, "Engaging with real Muslims as friends, showing the world that Islam as an accountable social entity - this is all we do. We don't get into any political talk. Not even NRC or Ram Temple. Where else can you find professionals and fruit sellers stay, eat and pray in the masjid," the professional said, on condition of anonymity.

Defending Sa'ad’s call to occupy mosques in wake of coronavirus spread Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind president Arshad Madani said it has to be seen in perspective as “no religious leader will let his place of worship get abandoned”

"But once the intensity of the crisis emerged, he did ask his followers to abide by rules."

Arshad Madani also said there was no difference, his organisation -considered among the most popular muslim groups, had with Tablighi Jamaat.

Tablighi Jamaat, known to focus on personal practices of Muslims, has also been criticised by Muslim preacher Zakir Naik who had said that the group's unwillingness to indulge in conversion of Non Muslims to Muslims, and focus only on its own community was against the message of the Quran.

Several others have blamed the group for promoting "weak hadith" and being overly insistent on their ways as being pure Islamic.

"It was our forefathers who started the Jamaat and we don't think they have done anything wrong. We focus on Islamic training, they focus on those who don't have training which is an important work too. The Jamaats are known to go to the most backward places, making the Muslims, better Muslims. But this religious work should now be restricted to their their families alone, till this pandemic gets over."


Appeal people not to visit places of worship during lockdown: Islamic Centre to religious leaders

April 5, 2020

The India Islamic Cultural Centre on Sunday urged all religious scholars and leaders to appeal to citizens not to visit places of worship during the lockdown period, saying the situation arising out of the coronavirus pandemic is "unprecedented" and tough times call for tough measures.

In a statement issued by the organisation's vice president, S M Khan, all stakeholders were asked to show "complete discipline" and refrain from activities which can cause damage to the dedicated efforts of the government.

The statement from the office-bearer of the four-decade-old organisation, which was set up to promote mutual understanding and amity amongst the people of the country, came after reports of some patients taken for quarantine from Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin allegedly misbehaving with the medical staff.

Khan, an Indian Information Services officer who had served as the press secretary to the then President A P J Abdul Kalam and was also the face of the country's premier probe agency CBI for over a decade, said the current situation is "unprecedented".

"Tough times call for tough measures and this is exactly what our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has done by ensuring a complete lockdown which was imperative to tackle this pandemic," he said, calling everyone to fight the "common enemy together".

Khan thanked all essential service providers who are ensuring continuity of supplies and especially saluted the medical professionals who are taking care of those affected and also the police/administrative personnel and media for doing a remarkable job.

"I take this opportunity to request all religious scholars and leaders to appeal to citizens not to visit places of worship during the lockdown period...stay safe and take care!" Khan said.

Natural disasters such as these do not discriminate between people in terms of religion, caste, creed, region among others, he said, adding "this phase should be a learning experience for all of us, that how we can support each other for humanitarian causes."


If Saudi Arabia is forced to put the Hajj on hold, it will not be without precedent


April 04, 2020

JEDDAH: Will the Hajj, which draws millions of Muslims annually to Islam’s birthplace in Saudi Arabia, be suspended this year owing to the global coronavirus pandemic?

That question had been uppermost in the minds of millions of Muslims worldwide even before a Saudi official asked them to put on hold any plans to perform the obligatory pilgrimage, scheduled to begin in late July.

“We’ve asked our Muslim brothers around the world to wait” before making Hajj plans “until there’s clarity,” Dr. Muhammad Salih bin Taher Banten, minister of Hajj and Umrah, told state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV in comments on March 31 that quickly bounced around the world.

He added: “We've asked the world not to rush with regards to Hajj groups until the path of the epidemic becomes clear, keeping in mind the safety of pilgrims and public health as a priority.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has taken the whole gamut of precautionary measures to control the spread of COVID-19 infection in Makkah and Madinah, yet a total of more than 480 active cases have been reported in the two holy cities so far.

Last month, the Kingdom suspended the Umrah pilgrimage until further notice, halted all international passenger flights indefinitely, and blocked the entry and exit to several cities, including Makkah and Madinah.

In actual fact, the pilgrimage has experienced disruptions through the centuries due to circumstances beyond the control of Hajj authorities.

According to a report published by the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah), the first time the Hajj was interrupted was in 930 AD when the Qarmatians, a syncretic branch of Sevener Ismaili Shiite Islam that revolted against the Abbasid Caliphate, attacked pilgrims on the eighth day of Hajj.

The report says the Qarmatians, convinced that performing the Hajj was an act of idolatry, killed more than 30,000 pilgrims that year, desecrated Makkah’s Zamzam well with corpses, and ran off with the Black Stone of the Kaaba back to Hajr (Qatif nowadays), their capital on the Arabian Gulf at that time.

The next disruption happened in 968 AD, says the report, citing Ibn Kathir’s book “Al-Bidaya wan-Nihayah.” It said a disease spread inside Makkah and claimed the lives of many pilgrims.

“Many of those who managed to reach Makkah safely could not live long after Hajj for the same reason,” according to the Darah report

Some 29 years later, no pilgrims from the East or Egypt came for the Hajj. According to the Darah report, in 1030 only a few Iraqi pilgrims managed to reach Makkah to perform the Hajj.

Dr. Emad Taher, head of the history department at King Abdul Aziz University, said the reason was political unrest and sectarian tensions.

Some five years before the Crusaders seized Jerusalem in 1099, lack of unity among Muslim rulers of the Arab region meant that no Muslims could manage to reach Makkah to perform the Hajj.

In 1168, Egyptians found themselves locked in confrontation with Kurdish Commander Asaduddin Shirkuh, who was hoping to extend the Zangid dynasty to Egypt. The situation naturally did not allow Egyptians to perform the Hajj.

The pilgrimage was again disrupted in the 13th century. The Darah report says no people from outside the Hijaz region could perform the Hajj between 1256 and1260.

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria from 1798 to 1801 made the standard routes to Makkah unsafe for pilgrims.

Hani Nasira, an Egyptian academic and writer, said if COVID-19 cases worldwide continue to increase, a decision to halt the Hajj should come as no surprise.

“If imposed, such a decision will be wise and in full compliance with the Islamic Shariah, which basically aims to protect and preserve peoples’ lives,” he told Arab News.

“In the Holy Qur’an, Allah says, ‘and do not kill yourselves.’ Also, the Prophet Muhammad warned his companions against epidemics.

“The whole world is suffering from the swift spread of the coronavirus, which has filled people everywhere with unprecedented dread,” he told Arab News.

“With scientists having little information about the virus, a cure isn’t likely to come out soon, so the continuation of the situation makes suspending the Hajj necessary to protect lives.”

Nasira drew attention to the fact that some Muslim countries, including Iran and Turkey, are among the biggest casualties of the pandemic.

“We don’t want to add fuel to the fire. It’s illogical, and Islam also never accepts or approves that. If I were a mufti, I wouldn’t hesitate to call for a suspension,” he said.

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, a researcher of Islamic studies, pointed out that the Hajj is not a limited ritual in the sense that it can be carried out at least once in the lifetime of an adult Muslim.

“Performing the Hajj isn’t limited to a specific time. An adult Muslim can perform the Hajj whenever he or she likes once they’ve reached the age of discretion,” he told Arab News.

“Prophet Muhammad, for instance, didn’t perform the pilgrimage in the first year the Hajj became a duty. He made his Hajj a year later,” said Al-Ghamdi, who specializes in Hadith and Islamic sciences. Like Nasira, he maintains that Islamic Shariah strongly backs public interest and wellbeing.

“In case of dire necessity, such as because of the spread of the coronavirus disease, political reasons or security compulsions, the Hajj can be suspended and this doesn’t contradict Islamic teachings,” Al-Ghamdi said. “The Almighty has ordered us to not expose ourselves to danger.”

Moreover, Al-Ghamdi said, the Hajj is founded in reason and logic, so if health officials find that a contagious sickness can cause deaths, preserving people’s lives is more important than the pilgrimage itself. “Nothing is wrong with this line of reasoning in Islamic Shariah,” he added.


Amid Virus, Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Religious, Political Gatherings in Afghanistan

April 5, 2020

KABUL: The religious scholars called for a ban of any religious and political gatherings after the increase of Corona virus spread in the country.

The religious scholars said in a statement released on Sunday that people need to perform five-time prayers at their homes and avoid going to mosques.

The statement said that the decision was taken based on the Koran verses and advices from ministry of public health.

Abdul Salam Abed, a religious scholar, called on the government to cancel taking taxes until the end of virus threat.

The ministry of public health asked the people to respect the day-time curfew rule and stay in their homes.


Fight erupts at White House over drug Trump suggests for COVID-19

06 April 2020

A fierce fight broke out at the White House over the weekend about the use of Hydroxychloroquine President Donald Trump has touted as a treatment for COVID-19.

During a press conference on Sunday, Trump contradicted one of his top health officials on coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying that the drug can cure the fatal disease.

“We have stockpiled 29 million pills of the hydroxychloroquine,” Trump said, noting that the government is using federal resources to make it available. “And they're not expensive. What do you have to lose?"

A day earlier, economic adviser Peter Navarro went for Dr. Fauci over the antimalarial drug at a White House meeting, Axios reported.

It was near the end of the meeting when Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn mentioned the drug with Navarro bringing over “a stack of folders” and dropping them on the table.

"And the first words out of his (Navarro’s) mouth are that the studies that he's seen, I believe they're mostly overseas, show 'clear therapeutic efficacy,'" one of the sources said. "Those are the exact words out of his mouth."

Dr. Fauci then explained that the research on it, which is being carried out in China and France, is not enough and only anecdotal.

Fauci, who has actually praised the travel restrictions since Trump enacted them, looked confused, according to someone in the room.

The Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

The Trump administration has come under fire from medical experts and Democrats for downplaying the threat and mishandling the crisis.

The global new coronavirus outbreak, which first began in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has so far affected more than 1,270,000.

The United States is the country hit hardest by the coronavirus. More than 336,000 have tested positive so far across the country and over 9,600 have died there.


Mujlisul Ulama and Jamiatul Ulama: 'Lockdown Regulations Have Caused Spiritual Depression to Muslims'

02 April 2020

By Gift Tlou

Mujlisul Ulama and Jamiatul Ulama have requested that the government ease the regulations and allow them to attend mosque but other Muslims insist that social distancing must be maintained.

The Muslim groups' legal team, Zehir Omar Attorneys, has sent a letter to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and president Cyril Ramaphosa appealing for the regulations to be reviewed.

Zuma recently announced amendments to the regulations that include certain individuals being permitted to move between provinces, metropolitan and district areas for purposes of transporting a body for burial purposes. Zuma added that the current prohibition of 50 persons attending a funeral is still in operation.

According to a letter from the organisation’s representatives, the lockdown regulations have caused spiritual depression to Muslims which has an impact on their minds and hearts.

The legal representatives of the group have also disclosed in the letter that they have no fewer than 20 mosques and several thousand worshippers located at these mosques in different parts of the country.

The letter points out that mosques will not be crowded during their five daily prayers since only few worshippers will be present.

“The prayers last for approximately 30 minutes, after which all the worshippers disperse. There is no crowding such as prevails at grocery stores or spaza shops, taxi ranks, in taxis and at the malls as seen in the last few days,” reads the letter.

Meanwhile, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has also called on the government to relax lockdown regulations on churches.


Muslim professionals raise funds for frontliners' PPE in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi

April 06, 2020

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A group of young Muslim professionals in Western Mindanao is working to raise funds for medical frontliners located in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, so they can continue their brave fight against COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.

The group started the online fundraising effort over the GoGetFunding website, according to their spokesperson Zamboanga-based Dr Abdul Javar Esturco. They are also accepting bank deposits for cash donations. (READ: EXPLAINER: The PPE keeping our healthcare workers safe)

He said that they see the need to support and augment frontliners in these geographically challenged areas because the lockdown and suspension of public transport have made it even more difficult to get personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment and medicines to these island provinces.

"Because they are so far from the center, our health workers in these areas face logistical and supply difficulties," Esturco said. "They need to augment existing medical facilities and equipment. They need medicines and PPE."

The group aims to gather funds to produce an initial number of 150 PPEs that will be distributed equally to the three provinces. Hopefully, Estrurco added, they will receive funds that will help them continue producing more PPEs. (WATCH: PPE hacks you can do at home)

The group reported that as of Sunday, April 5, their online fundraiser has gathered P101,000 from the GoGetFunding website and bank deposits.


Spared So Far, Israel's Arab Community Fears Ramadan Could Spark Coronavirus Outbreak

Apr 05, 2020

Nir Hasson

Israel’s Arab community has until now experienced a surprisingly low rate of coronavirus infection, but there is mounting concern that the outbreak could gain strength during Ramadan, showing the true gaps in public health between Israel’s communities.

Experts say the gap can be partially explained by a relatively small number of tests conducted in Arab communities, as well as a lack of epidemiological investigation to locate those who had been in contact with COVID-19 patients, as Haaretz previously reported. As of Sunday, 6,479 people in Arab communities were tested in contrast to more than 80,000 in Jewish communities.

But the gap in testing can’t explain the fact that among the 46 fatalities, there are apparently no Arabs. Health maintenance organizations and local clinics have also not reported any sharp rise in the spread of the virus in Arab society.

Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, after undergoing a coronavirus test in Tira, central Israel, April 2020.

“In my opinion we don’t know enough and it’s possible that there is more illness than we are aware of,” says Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. “It’s also possible that there is underreporting, that the threshold at which they call Magen David Adom [rescue services] is higher,” he adds. According to Segal, there may have been Arab Israelis who died of the coronavirus but went undiagnosed and a different cause of death was listed.

Nevertheless, the Arab community seems to have been less affected by two accelerators of the disease. The first circles of infection in Israel was mainly composed of people who returned from abroad carrying the virus, and then of people who attended celebrations around the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Dr. Hagai Levine, chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians warns that the high number of Arab health care workers puts the community at the center of the outbreak. “If these workers are at high risk, we’ll start seeing a much higher rate of infection. It’s important to follow what’s happening there,” Levine says.

The low rate of infection among Arabs could also be due to the fact that they followed instructions and avoided public gatherings, shuttering churches and mosques, an assessment that the national committee on public health in the Arab community cautiously agrees with. “The attempt to rope the Arab and the ultra-Orthodox communities together is not correct,” Levine says. “The Arab population responded positively to public health recommendations, much more than the Jewish community,” he adds, noting the higher rate of vaccination among Israeli Arabs.

Levine warns however that the Health Ministry doesn’t know enough about what is happening in Arab communities. And health professionals believe that, although these factors have helped to slow the spread of the virus, it did not stop it; and an outbreak in one Arab community would be on par with an outbreak in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, a possibility which has received widespread attention.

Hundreds of tests were conducted over the last few days in Arab communities, and could reveal a more accurate trend. “In another week, we’ll know more,” says Dr. Fuad Abu Hmad, director of the local branch of an Israeli health maintenance organization in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. “But meanwhile we’re not seeing sickness,” he added.

Dr. Khaled Awawda, a member of the national committee on health in the Arab community, agrees with Abu Hmad’s assessment. “It’s hard to reach conclusions at this point. The number of confirmed patients is relatively low, [but] so is the number of tests,” and at the same time, family physicians are not reporting a rise in coronavirus patients in local clinics. “We expect in a week or two to have a clearer picture,” Awawda added.

A drive-through testing station for coronavirus in the Bedouin city of Rahat, in southern Israel, April 2020.Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Members of the health committee are now concerned about what might happen during the month of Ramadan, which begins at the end of April. People are less likely to adhere to social distancing rules during the holiday, which will increase the risk of infection. It is especially worrying given the infection rate could be compounded by the high number of smokers and diabetes sufferers, both considered risk factors, in the community. The fact that many Arab senior citizens live with their families could also put them at risk, especially if this wave of the disease breaks out after general social distancing rules are eased.

“At the moment, there are many theories, but it must be said that we don’t know entirely what is happening,” said Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, head of the school of public health at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. The government responded late in its efforts to spread information, in testing and improving access to services in the Arab community, he said.

If an outbreak occurs among Israeli Arabs, the situation will reflect the status of the system in general and gaps in public health in Israel, Davidovitch, said, adding: “It won’t last forever. It’s not logical for there not to be an outbreak in Arab community.”


Govt cancels Baisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Punja Sahib

April 06, 2020

TAXILA: The government has cancelled Baisakhi celebrations scheduled to begin on April 14 in Hassanabdal, in which 3,000 Sikhs from India and 2,000 from elsewhere around the world were to participate.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said that a meeting of the ETPB and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbadhank Committee (PSGPC) unanimously decided that there would be no Baisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal this year and the scheduled visits of Sikh pilgrims has been cancelled.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has already been informed of the decision, he said, with onward communication for the Foreign Office and the Indian government regarding the development and that the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi would not issue visas to pilgrims this year.

“We have monitored the situation closely in recent days and worked with government departments including the PSGPCand other stakeholders. We are committed to following the guidelines set by the federal government to ensure a safe environment for our Sikh pilgrim guests and we would not risk their health amid the global coronavirus outbreak,” Mr Gondal said.

To a question, he said Pakistan gave all Sikh representative bodies the green light in November 2019 that Pakistan would issue 3,000 visas to Indian pilgrims who wanted to participate in the Baisakhi festival, as well as limitless visas for pilgrims from other parts of the world.

The ETPB had also issued a schedule for Indian pilgrims that was shared with the Indian government. Security, boarding and lodging arrangements had been finalised at all the temples the pilgrims would visit.

PSGPC General Secretary Sardar Ameer Singh, a leading organiser, said the decision was made to prevent all risks to public health and safety.

Deciding to cancel the event was not easy, he said, as the Sikh community around the world has great emotional, religious and cultural attachment to the event. He added that only symbolic Baisakhi celebrations will be observed at Gurdwara Punja Sahib.

He said he has also released a video message for all Pakistani and foreign Sikh bodies saying that there would be no Baisakhi celebrations due to Covid-19.

Mr Singh said that the high priests of Akal Takht - the highest religious authority in the Sikh faith - have already announced that Baisakhi celebrations around the world would be smaller in scale due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Tens of thousands of Sikhs typically participate in Baisakhi celebrations every year. In 2019, more than 15,000 pilgrims visited the gurdwaras in Hassanabdal.


The UK is in denial about its post-coronavirus status in the world. Former colonies won’t need us, we’ll need them

1 hour ago

The coronavirus will change the world as we know it. Every nation has had to re-evaluate themselves and their priorities and when it is over, every nation’s standing in the world will be re-evaluated for them. None more so than Britain.

Discussions about Britain’s place in the world began as part of our never-ending Brexit saga, but if the way we handled that didn’t expose us, then our handling of coronavirus certainly will.  While we continue to trade off the nostalgia of being world leaders, the pandemic is showing the world that we are leading nothing.

While other countries offer residency to migrants, we maintain detention centres and no recourse to public funds. While other countries provide universal basic income, we leave the self-employed in limbo and offer small business owners relief in the form of debts. And while Cuba sends doctors around the world to fight Covid-19, staff in our chronically under-resourced NHS use bin liners in place of proper, personal protective equipment.

During a recent Urgent Question about Jamaica deportation flights, a Conservative MP remarked that “British citizenship was a privilege, not a right”. Yet as I write, hundreds of thousands of British nationals are stranded abroad. British consulates have closed their doors and unplugged the phones. Brits look on as other countries pull out all the stops to get their citizens safely home.

Some of the first countries to shut their borders to “Europeans” were former colonies. The world we know and our place in it is already changing.

Just before our official departure from the EU, I made my maiden speech in a debate on Global Britain, which was clearly meant to be a celebration of our standing in the world.

I said: “It strikes me that as a country we cannot begin to fulfil the idea of global Britain until we first address the historic injustices of the British empire, injustices including slavery and colonialism; first, because it is the right thing to do, but also because we may soon find ourselves out in the cold if we do not.”

The one thing that I agree with ardent Brexiteers on is that Commonwealth countries could be our most fruitful trading partners after Brexit. But while my comments were overwhelmingly welcomed by people across the Commonwealth, they were met with ridicule and racist abuse here at home. And herein lies our problem.

Advocates of “Global Britain” clearly hearken back to the last time when Britain really did have global power. But there’s underlying bathos to the phrase in a time when power bases are shifting. This was exemplified by Theresa May’s unsuccessful trade visit to India in 2016, where talks floundered over migration and Brexit. More recently, a Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the UK’s relationship with India stressed that the UK’s failure to become more open to overseas workers, students and tourists, would limit our capacity to build new trading relationships.

The recent publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review highlighted the institutional racism that underpins our approach to immigration. This racism and the way we view the Global South has roots in slavery, colonialism and empire. So, it stands to reason that until we address these historic ills, we will continue to alienate the countries whose friendship will be paramount after Brexit.

Instead of doing this, the government introduced its glossy continuation of the hostile environment: a “points-based” system cloaked in rhetoric, but not enough to conceal its concession to anti-migrant sentiments. Even at a potential economic cost. While we pander to populist ideas about immigration, we have fallen from being India’s second-largest trade partner in 1998-99, to its 17th in 2018-19. In a world outside the EU, are we really so arrogant to think that we can call all of the shots with India, a country which recently surpassed the UK to become the fifth-largest economy in the world?

We saw this same disregard at the recent UK-Africa trade summit, dubbed the “scramble for Africa”. The prime minister’s speech showed he had not been listening to African leaders at all, making no reference to Africa’s past and perhaps more surprisingly, no reference to its future – the African common market. When established, this will be the largest free trade area in the world, and there is already talk of accelerating the process to cushion African economies against a post-pandemic global recession.

The prime minister’s omission was glaring given that the summit’s whole purpose was to discuss trade with the UK after leaving the EU’s common market. Countries like Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, which Britain deliberately underdeveloped, stole resources from, and brutally enslaved, are already among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Imagine what an African market would mean, and then imagine the level of arrogance it takes to ignore it. Coronavirus is exposing a truth that should give advocates of Global Britain pause for thought: “they” do not need “us”.

As our government panders to nationalism, it would do well to remember that nationalism is not a uniquely western concept. Many Commonwealth countries will only remember a past of exploitation and a present in which they are subjected to punitive IMF conditions, crippling their social infrastructure in serving the interests of more powerful countries like the UK. Countries in the global south have their own nationalists and every one of them will tell you that their achievements are in spite of Britain’s atrocities, not because of aid or the “privilege” of being colonised.

Why does this all matter now? Coronavirus demonstrates more than ever the importance of global cooperation. It has also shown that we have less and less to offer. We will come through this crisis and when we do, we need to find a new economic foothold. But we cannot successfully do this if we’re unwilling to approach our former colonies from a place of equality, respect and understanding. We weren’t prepared for the reality of coronavirus but we must prepare to face our place in the world when the pandemic is over.



Unidentified men open fire at Gurugram mosque, FIRfiled

Apr 05, 2020

Alind Chauhan

A group of unidentified men opened fire at a mosque in Dhankot village on Saturday night, the police said, adding that nobody was injured in the incident.

According to the police, an FIR was registered on Sunday against unidentified men on the basis of the complaint by the Imam of the mosque, who was sleeping on the terrace of the building when the incident took place. However, he did not hear the sound of the gunshots, the Imam said in the complaint.

The police said that they found at least one ejected shell casing near the gate of the mosque. Although the motive behind the firing is yet to be established, the police have denied any communal angle to it.

In the police complaint, the Imam, who is a resident of Nuh, said, “I have been working as Imam in Kherki Majra. On Friday, the Imam of Jama Masjid, Dhankot, asked me to take care of the premises as he was going out of station. On Sunday around 6.44am, I received a phone call from him. He informed me that the residents of the village have told him that gunshots were fired in front of the mosque. I was sleeping on the first floor during the night and did not hear the gunshots.”

The Imam further said that when he went downstairs, he saw a crowd in front of the mosque. The residents allegedly told him that they heard sounds of gunshots being fired around 12 am. After inspecting the area near the mosque, the Imam allegedly found an ejected shell casing and saw a bullet hole on the gate of the mosque, the police said.

“Residents told me that they heard at least three gunshots. I do not know the people who fired them. But I believe that there are some people who want to destroy the harmony and brotherhood in the area,” the Imam, requesting anonymity, said.

Pankaj Kumar, station house officer, Rajendra Park police station, said that the suspects are yet to be identified. “We are investigating the case. An ejected shell casing was found near the spot. There is no communal angle to the incident,” he said.

A police official privy to the investigation, requesting anonymity, said preliminary probe suggested that there were at least three men who came at the spot in a car and fried the gunshots.

A case was registered against the suspects under Section 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Arms Act at Rajendra Park police station on Sunday, the police said.


Coronavirus update: 25 Muslim men arrested for attacking police during Odisha town shutdown

Apr 06, 2020

Police in Odisha’s Cuttack have arrested 25 Muslim men for pelting stones at them while enforcing the 48-hour shutdown as part of the state government’s measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 disease.

Cuttack deputy commissioner of police Akhileswar Singh said the inspector of Mangalabag police station and some other policemen were on foot patrolling in Kesharpur area when they saw some men sitting near the local mosque.

“When the cops asked the youths why they were not inside their homes as per shutdown order they started pelting stones. The inspector and a few other policemen were injured,” said Singh.

Soon after the incident, two platoons of the police force were deployed in the locality to avoid any further untoward incident.

Odisha police have registered more than 2700 cases and arrested 2600-odd people for violating the lockdown as of Sunday. More than 400 vehicles have also been seized.


Test For COVID-19 Or Face Action: Himachal Pradesh To Islamic Sect Members

April 05, 2020

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Sunday asked all Tablighi Jamaat members who had attended the group's congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin, a COVID-19 hotspot, to come forward for testing by 5 pm, failing which action will be taken against them.

Three of the seven persons who tested positive for coronavirus in the state on Saturday were Tablighi Jamaat members, he said.

Earlier in the day, Director General of Police, Himachal Pradesh, Sita Ram Mardi had issued a similar warning to district heads of Tablighi Jamaat.

He asked them to disclose details of all those who came to the state after attending the congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin West area last month.

He asked all Tablighi Jamaat members who attended the Delhi congregation to come forward for medical check-up by 5 pm on Sunday and warned of strict action against those who do not comply with the order.

The chief minister said the three members of the group who tested positive on Saturday were hiding in a mosque in Solan district's Nalagarh and their samples were collected from there.

The three were admitted to Indira Gandhi Medical College here at 6.30 am on Sunday, Senior Medical Superintendent, IGMC, Dr Janak Raj said.

They are residents of Uttar Pradesh and had come to Himachal Pradesh's Nalagarh area from Nizamuddin on March 18. Their contacts are being traced so that they can be quarantined, he said.

With the seven fresh infections, the number of coronavirus cases in Himachal Pradesh has risen to 14, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) RD Dhiman said on Saturday.

Of these, six are Tablighi Jamaat members, according to officials. The remaining three are being treated at Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College (RPGMC) in Kangra district's Tanda, they said.


Delhi: Mosque allegedly attacked in Alipur, minorities panel urges police to take proper action

Yesterday · 05:22 pm

The Delhi Minorities Commission on Saturday issued a notice to the commissioner of police after a mosque in Alipur locality of North West Delhi was allegedly attacked and burnt by miscreants, reported The Wire.

The video of the incident, which took place on Friday night in Mukhmelpur village in Alipur, was shared widely on social media.

Chairperson Zafar-ul Islam Khan said the commission received a report and video, stating that around 200 people attacked the mosque when there were two or three people inside it. The notice to the police said that the mob attacked the mosque, ransacked and burnt it partially, adding that it was “unbelievable” that such an incident could take place in the national Capital. “The issue cannot be patched up artificially by arranging a compromise where a religious place has been ransacked and partially burnt and demolished,” the commission said. “If no proper legal action is taken, this lawlessness will become common.”

Khan directed the police commissioner to ensure that a first information report in the case is filed against the accused. “Law should take its course so that a deterrent is created in the minds of people as some have started to think that they will go scot-free after committing any crime against the weaker sections of the society,” the panel added.

Police told The Wire that the mosque is situated inside a graveyard in the village and is used to offer “janaza” – a prayer before the burial of the dead in accordance with Islam. A local resident, who does not wish to be identified, told the website that a group of 15 to 20 men came to the mosque on Friday night and vandalised it. “The environment here is extremely volatile,” he added. “We have to live here only, we don’t want this to go out in the media and for outsiders to get involved, we will work out a compromise.”

He added that a rumour was spread about an alleged dispute between Hindus and Muslims in the village. “If you saw the video on YouTube, you must have seen the state of the mosque,” he said. “Whenever something like this happens, we lock our homes. At night, we heard noises of something being broken. It was in the morning that we saw that it was the mosque.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer Delhi) Gaurav Sharma said an FIR has been registered under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code against those who unlawfully congregated outside the mosque. He, however, claimed that there was no attempt to break or vandalise the mosque.

Sharma said the condition of the mosque, as seen in the videos, has been same for the past few months. “The burn that can be seen is because some local people who work in the fields sometime use this site as a kitchen,” he added.

Parts of Delhi had witnessed large-scale communal violence in February. Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposed to it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.


Coronavirus in India: Mumbai Police files FIR against Mosque trustee, 3 Filipinos for violating orders

April 5, 2020

The Mumbai Police on Sunday registered an FIR against three Philippines nationals and six Indians, including a trustee of a mosque in Vashi.

The case was filed against the foreign nationals for violating visa norms and entering Navi Mumbai illegally, while the mosque trustee was accused of hiding the foreign nationals in the wake of Covid-19 spread.

One of these accused Filipinos had died of Covid-19 infection recently. The patient had initially tested positive for novel coronavirus and was under treatment at the civic-run Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai. He was later shifted to a private hospital after his test report came out to be negative. However, he died at the private hospital late night on March 23.

According to the police, a person from around the Noor Masjid in Vashi was tested positive for novel coronavirus. Some locals also spoke about foreigners staying in the mosque. However, when police reached the spot, they were met with resistance.

Those at the mosque refused to talk to the police and vehemently opposed getting themselves tested. They also told police that their religion forbids such testing. Later, police had to send a doctor to convince them, following which, they agreed for the test.

The test results were positive for the trustee of the mosque, his one-and-half-year-old grandchild, daughter-in-law and one other family member.

The trustee had hidden these foreigners in the mosque when the novel coronavirus started emerging in the country. These people stayed in the Masjid between March 10 and March 16.

Police filed a case against the mosque trustee and foreign nations under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), Section 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease danger¬ous to life) and Section 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease danger¬ous to life) of Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 3 and 4 of Epidemic Act 1897, Section 14 of Foreigners Act 1946 and Maharashtra Covid-19 rule recently brought into force.

As of now, the administration is trying to find all those people who met these infected persons so that the spread of Covid-19 could be curtailed.


Delhi Police urges Muslims to stay at home on Shab-e-Barat amid lockdown

Apr 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Police on Sunday urged Muslims to stay indoors on the upcoming Shab-e-Barat in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Shab-e-Barat, also known as the night of forgiveness, will be observed on April 8. Members of the Muslim community visit graveyards to remember their relatives who more.

Taking to Twitter, the Delhi Police shared a poster urging people to support them in the fight against Covid-19 by staying indoors. In its appeal, the police said lockdown is in force even on the sacred night of Shab-e-Barat. "Don't misuse it by coming out on motorcycles and creating chaos on the streets of Delhi,” the poster read.

The police also asked for cooperation from religious leaders and RWAs in maintaining the lockdown. "Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated. Violators will face stern action. Observe the occasion solemnly," the poster added. On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a country-wide lockdown for 21 days to contain the spread of coronavirus.


10 foreigners who stayed in Vashi mosque after attending Tablighi Jamaat event booked

Apr 05, 2020

Farhan Shaikh

Vashi police on Sunday have booked 10 Filipinos for allegedly staying in a mosque in Vashi after attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi between March 10 and 16 without informing the police and for flouting self-isolation norms.

The incident came to light after a 68-year-old man from the group started developing symptoms of coronavirus. “The 68-year-old man was sent to Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai. After he was tested positive, the other nine from the group were also tested and two of them were also tested positive. Meanwhile, the 68-year-old man developed complications and was shifted to a Powai hospital, where he died on March 23. On inquiring with the men, we learnt that they had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi,” said an officer from Vashi police station.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), however, has claimed that the 68-year-old died of another infection and did not attribute his death to coronavirus, as he was first tested positive but later his report came negative.

Meanwhile, two men who have been tested positive have recovered and are in quarantine at Nagpada. Despite being asked to self-isolate, the seven others who were tested negative have fled to Delhi, the police have said.

As per the suo motu first information report (FIR) registered at Vashi police station, the men violated the conditions pertaining to their immigration and came in contact with Indians, causing the spread of the disease. Officers at Vashi police station said the 68-year-old man had come to India on a 40-day tourist visa and had exceeded his stay in the country.

All the 10 have been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for violating orders and spreading infectious disease; for remaining in India beyond their visa permit under the Foreigner’s Act; and sections of Epidemic Diseases Act as well as the Maharashtra Covid-19 Regulations, 2020.

“The men did not inform authorities in the city that they had arrived from Delhi. Despite having symptoms, they continued to maintain proximity with others in the country amid the outbreak,” said Ravindra Daundkar, inspector, Vashi police station.

The police also said they will verify with the airport authorities if the 68-year-old was screened at the international and the domestic airports in India.


Covid-19: Muslim IAS, IPS officers urge community to cooperate with health workers

Apr 5, 2020

Covid-19: Muslim IAS, IPS officers urge community to cooperate with health workers

NEW DELHI: Following reports of violence against health workers involved in fight against Covid-19, a group of about 60 senior Muslim IAS and IPS officers have written an open letter to the community members and have urged them to cooperate with health workers.

The letter evokes Islamic scriptures and traditions of the Prophet and appeals to the Muslim community to help the health workers who are risking their own lives while screening and isolating the suspected coronavirus patients.

IGP of Tamil Nadu cadre Najmul Hoda and senior IAS officer of Haryana cadre Mohd Shiyan were among the signatories in the letter.

There have been disturbing reports of stone pelting on health workers at some Muslim-dominated localities.


BJP’s Karnataka MP calls Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat event ‘corona jihad’

5 April, 2020

Chikmagalur: BJP Lok Sabha MP from Udupi Chikmagalur Shobha Karandlaje on Saturday claimed that “efforts to spread coronavirus throughout the country” began at Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi and termed it as “corona jihad”.

“Efforts began at Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi to spread coronavirus throughout the country. Most of the attendees of that event are untraceable. There seems to be ‘corona Jihadi plan’ behind that meeting,” she said while speaking to reporters here. Meanwhile, according to officials, out of the seven new cases from Mysuru, two cases are connected to the Jubilant Generics cluster while the rest five cases have a travel history to Delhi.


8 Malaysians Linked To Delhi Mosque Event Caught Before Taking Special Flight

April 05, 2020

by Mukesh Sengar

New Delhi: Eight Malaysian citizens who were about to board a special flight to Malaysia were caught at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport today. Sources said they were part of the Tablighi Jamaat Centre at Nizamuddin, which has been marked as a hotspot for the spread of coronavirus. Though international flights are not operating, special flights are being operated by some nations to evacuate their nationals stranded in the country.

A third of the COVID-19 cases in the country - more than 1000 - are linked to last month's religious gathering hosted by Tablighi Jamaat despite the government's message of social distancing. Most of around 9,000 people who attended the event then dispersed to various parts of the country, leading to a surge of coronavirus cases across the country.

The eight Malaysians, who attended last month's event, were hiding at different places in Delhi and intended to take a Malindo Air relief flight, sources said. Caught by the immigration department at the airport, they will be handed over to the Delhi Police and the Health department for further investigation. The matter comes as the Delhi Police have started tracing cellphone data to trace the people who were at the Delhi event or in its vicinity.

The Jamaat event was attended by a number of foreigners, who, the authorities said, were misusing their tourist visa by participating in religious events.


"Come Out In 24 Hours": Uttarakhand Top Cop To Mosque Event Participants

April 06, 2020

Dehradun: Uttarakhand Director General of Police (DGP) Anil Raturi on Sunday warned all the people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi last month to come out and declare themselves within 24 hours or face prosecution for murder.

"People who had attended Tablighi Jamaat event should come forward and disclose the information within 24 hours, otherwise, FIR (First Information Report) will be registered against them under sections of murder and attempt to murder," DGP Anil Raturi said.

The Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi has emerged as a hotspot for COVID-19 after a large number of positive cases from across India were linked to the gathering including deaths in Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana.

According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country has crossed 4,000 and over 100 have died.


Arab world 

Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: No room for political differences to coronavirus battle

April 6, 2020

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said yesterday that there is no room for political and intellectual differences while confronting the coronavirus, revealing the formation of a committee to deal with the effects of the virus.

Speaking during a video conference Dr Al-Mitwali Zakaria, a professor of infectious diseases, said: “There is no way to put political and intellectual differences as a barrier to confront this pandemic which does not discriminate between a supporter and an opponent, a ruler or a citizen.”

He added: “Despite the difficulties it is facing, the movement decided to form a committee abroad working to launch specialised sites to improve doctors’ qualification and open areas for remote consultations with the participation of specialists.”

YouTube channels will be used to spread information and educate people about the virus and stop the spread of rumours and false information, he added

“With all our capacities, we are ready to sacrifice for our great people and for our beloved country Egypt,” the Muslim Brotherhood said while calling for the release of prisoners, especially the elderly.


Oil prices fall sharply as OPEC+ meeting delayed, stocks jump on virus slowdown


April 06, 2020

SYDNEY: Oil prices skidded on Monday after Saudi-Russian negotiations to cut output were delayed, keeping oversupply concerns alive, while stocks jumped as investors were encouraged by a slowdown in coronavirus-related deaths and new cases.

In currency markets, sterling fell after British Prime Minister was admitted to hospital following persistent coronavirus symptoms as the pandemic rapidly spreads.

Brent crude fell as much as $3 in early Asian trading after Saudi Arabia and Russia postponed a meeting over a potential pact to cut production to Thursday.

Also weighing on the pound were fears other senior government officials who were in the same briefing as Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be affected by the virus, said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto, Canada.

“It is stating the obvious to say the viral outbreak and the containment measures to fight it are central to market action,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Indeed, equity investors looked at the positives with major European nations including France and Italy reporting lower fatality rates.

US stock futures jumped more than 1.5% in early Asian trading on Monday after US President Donald Trump expressed hope the country was seeing a “levelling off” of the coronavirus crisis.

The gains came despite New York Governor Andrew Cuomo cautioning that it was not yet clear whether the crisis in the state had reached a plateau. Investors took solace from the fact that COVID-19 cases appeared to be reaching a peak in Europe with Italy seeing the number of patients in intensive care falling for the second consecutive day.

“Focus in markets will now turn to the path out of lockdown and to what extent containment measures can be lifted without risking a second wave of infections,” National Australia Bank analyst Tapas Strickland wrote in a note.

“Key to a strong rebound in China will be the ongoing lifting of containment measures with Wuhan – the epicenter of the outbreak – set to lift containment measures on April 8.”

Strickland, however, noted many in China were still subject to social distancing and isolation restrictions to prevent a resurgence in infections.

The pandemic has claimed more than 64,000 deaths as it further exploded in the United States and the death toll climbed in Spain and Italy, according to a Reuters tally.

Concerns about heavy damage to the global economy have pushed investors into the perceived safety of government bonds where yields are at or near all-time lows.

Elsewhere in currencies, the dollar was up a touch against the yen at 108.58.. The euro was barely moved at $1.0803 while the risk sensitive Australian dollar was up 0.2% at $0.6004.


KSA steps up efforts to repatriate Saudi citizens

April 06, 2020

RIYADH: The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) is working in cooperation with all relevant government agencies to arrange for the return of Saudi citizens currently trapped abroad as a result of security measures imposed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Saleh Al-Jasser, minister of transport and chairman of GACA, said that in compliance with the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the transport system, represented by GACA, was working to ready airport terminals as part of a series of decisions issued by the king to ensure the safety of citizens in light of the coronavirus outbreak, in the Kingdom and abroad.

Al-Jasser added: “GACA has harnessed all its efforts and capabilities to receive the citizens wishing to return to the Kingdom. It has prepared terminals in the Kingdom’s international airports: King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam.

“GACA also endeavors to schedule the flights designated for the plan to return Saudi citizens to the Kingdom in coordination with the national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), in addition to continuous coordination with the airports of other countries.”

Saudi citizens wishing to return can register their information at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs online portal

Al-Jasser highlighted that GACA would take all precautionary and preventive measures against COVID-19 in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.

The Saudi minister of tourism, Ahmed Al-Khatib, has also announced that 11,000 rooms in various accommodations across the Kingdom are ready to welcome the returning citizens, with more rooms to be facilitated.

The Ministry of Education, meanwhile, has followed up with its 31 cultural bureaus on the health and safety of Saudi scholarship students abroad. At present, 124,228 Saudis are abroad as part of the the scholarship program, with 79,113 scholarship students as well as 45,115 accompanying family members. The ministry is to provide them with the means of return to the Kingdom if they wish to do so.


UAE's top banks reveal exposure to troubled hospital group NMC Health

APRIL 5, 2020

Saeed Azhar

DUBAI (Reuters) - UAE’s top banks including Emirates NBD and Dubai Islamic Bank on Sunday disclosed hundreds of millions of dollars of exposure to hospital group NMC Health, which a lender has asked a British court to put into administration.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a branch of Dubai Islamic Bank branch along Khalid Bin Al-Waleed Road in Dubai February 3, 2010. REUTERS/Mosab Omar/File Photo

NMC - which recently revised its debt position to $6.6 billion, well above earlier estimates - has seen its stock more than halve in value since December after short-seller Muddy Waters questioned its financial statements.

Dubai Islamic Bank said on Sunday it has a $425 million exposure to NMC Heath, while its subsidiary Noor Bank has a further $116 million.

The aggregate exposure to NMC constitutes approximately 0.7% of DIB’s total assets as of March 31, the bank said.

Shares in DIB were down 4.8% in afternoon trade after the disclosure, underperforming the Dubai stock index, which was down about 2.2%.

Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank, said it had an exposure of 747.3 million dirhams ($203.5 million), including 676.5 million linked to its unit Emirates Islamic Bank.

The latest revelations came after Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which has a $981 million exposure to NMC Health, said on Saturday it had asked a court in Britain to put the company into administration to safeguard its future.

That process would give the healthcare group, whose London-listed shares were suspended in February, protection from creditors, and avert a more disruptive liquidation.

NMC Health’s new executive chairman on the same day called on the company’s creditors to suspend debt repayments and said he would work with authorities in Britain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to recover misused funds.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank said it had extended $291.4 million in financing to NMC Healthcare LLC UAE, guaranteed by NMC Health, and that it had an additional $31 million exposure to Islamic bonds issued by NMC.

National Bank of Fujairah pegged its exposure to NMC at 289.1 million dirhams, while Sharjah-based United Arab Bank said its exposure was 135.3 million dirhams.

Marie Salem, head of institutions at Daman Securities, said banks will have the opportunity to assess their exposure to NMC Health by June and take any action, such as writedowns, if necessary.

DIB said it was now in discussions with NMC and its advisors to ascertain the group’s financial position and identify potential measures to address its governance and financial issues.


Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Directs Shura Council to Hold Sessions via Virtual Network


Riyadh- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has directed the Shura Council and its committees to hold sessions and meetings via the virtual network as of Monday 06/04/2020.


UAE car listings fall by half amid coronavirus pandemic: Report

06 April 2020

Matthew Amlôt

The number of pre-owned online car listings have dropped by almost half from average in the UAE as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on the automobile industry, according to data from Dubai-based automotive platform Seez.

The UAE economy has begun to see the economic fallout of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, as authorities place the country into lockdown to control the virus’s spread. Dubai announced Saturday that it was extending its lockdown period for a further two weeks with a 24-hour curfew in place.

“People will not stop buying cars, they have just paused buying cars because of the uncertainty of what’s going on. As life gets back to normal we’re bound to see people who had previously wanted to buy a car actually do so,” Seez CEO Tarek Kabrit said.

Seez found that prices for cars have fallen at least 10-15 percent, with the biggest drop happening the middle of March when coronavirus measures were introduced.

BMW, Lexus, Volkwagen, Nissan and Toyota were noted as performing the best in terms of maintaining their market share in their respective categories.

“Low-cost cars that are vital for people's commuting needs will probably recover fastest. Premium brands, which are holding up relatively well even now, will continue to do well too, but we may see a shift towards lower-end models within the segment,” Kabrit added.

“With more economic and job uncertainty, the lower level of commitment that comes with a lease may be more attractive now,” Kabrit concluded.


Coronavirus: Oman reports 33 new cases, raising total to 331

06 April 2020

Tamara Abueish

A total of 61 people have recovered from the virus in the Sultanate, the ministry added. So far, two coronavirus fatalities have been announced.

Citizens and residents are advised to refrain from leaving the house unless absolutely necessary, the ministry said, calling on the public to adhere to instructions put forth by the World Health Organization about maintaining personal hygiene to prevent the virus from spreading.

Oman in March imposed new measures to curb the outbreak in the country, including banning public gatherings and ordering government services to reduce their staff by 30 percent.


Coronavirus: Dubai launches movement permit website, waives fines between April 4-5

05 April 2020

Ismaeel Naar

Dubai Police clarified on Sunday that fines on violators of the traffic restrictions between April 4-5 have been waived and urged people to register for a movement permit on a new website it launched. Dubai imposed 24-hour restrictions as part of a nationwide sanitation program to fight the spread of the coronavirus for the coming two weeks.

“Dubai Police: Radar fines imposed against violators of traffic restrictions in Dubai from (April 4) until today (April 5), will be waived. Going forward, anyone who wishes to go out must obtain a movement permit to avoid fines & legal action. To apply:,” the Dubai Media office tweeted on Sunday night.

The Dubai Police said radars would be not be activated for those motorists passing through Dubai to other emirates violating the restrictions, provided that they use inter-emirates roads like “the Mohammed bin Zayed road and Emirates road and do not stop in Dubai.”

Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management in Dubai: The movement permit website  is for general members of the public who are allowed to go out for essential needs such as buying food and medicine, medical emergencies and for COVID-19 testing.

“The movement permit website is for general members of the public who are allowed to go out for essential needs such as buying food and medicine, medical emergencies and for COVID-19 testing,” the Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management in Dubai said in a statement.

The committee clarified that those people working in the sectors exempted from the traffic and movement restrictions are not required to register on the new website.

“However, with regard to the exempt sectors and their employees, registration is not required, but they must obtain a letter from the employer stating their movement t o& from work. The paper has to be presented if stopped by authorities. It can also be used to waive violations by radar,” they added in the statement.


Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia records 61 new cases, bringing total to 2,463

06 April 2020

Saudi Arabia recorded 61 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 2,463, according to data on the Ministry of Health’s website dedicated to COVID-19 news.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that they would provide more details about the new cases at a press conference scheduled later today.

The ministry on Sunday said that out of the total confirmed cases, 47 percent are of Saudi patients while 53 percent are of non-citizens.

While there has been a decrease in people’s mobility in general in Saudi Arabia, the health ministry spokesman said, the rate of mobility related to recreation and shopping is worrying.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued on Sunday directives for the foreign minister to work on procedures that will allow Saudi citizens to return to the Kingdom following the suspension of flights around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak.


South Asia 

39 Taliban militants killed, wounded in Uruzgan and Zabul airstrikes

06 Apr 2020

A series of airstrikes killed or wounded at least 39 Taliban militants in southern Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, the Afghan military said.

The 205th Atal Corps in a statement said the Afghan forces conducted an airstrike to defend against a Taliban attack in Tarinkot city of Uruzgan, killing 6 Taliban militants and wounding 2 others.

The statement further added that a similar airstrike killed 6 Taliban militants and wounded 4 others in Khas Uruzgan district of the province.

The security forces had earlier conducted airstrike in Arghandab district of Zabul province which killed 21 Taliban militants.

The 205th Atal Corps said all three airstrikes were carried out for defense purposes only as the militants were planning to launch attacks in the two provinces.


Airstrike destroys key Taliban compound in Balkh province

06 Apr 2020

The Afghan military has released a video which shows a precision airstrike against a key Taliban compound in northern Balkh province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in a statement said the Afghan Air Force carried out the airstrike after receiving information regarding the compound in Chemtal district.

The airstrike killed 11 Taliban militants and wounded at least 6 others, the 209th Shaheen Corps said, adding that the airstrike also destroyed the compound of Taliban.

This comes as the Taliban militants are continuously attempting to launch attacks against the Afghan forces despite ongoing efforts to find a negotiated political settlement to end the war.


Will defend our Afghan partners if attacked: U.S. military in Afghanistan

06 Apr 2020

The U.S. military in Afghanistan has said it would defend the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in the event the were attack.

“USFOR-A has upheld, and continues to uphold, the military terms of the U.S.-TB agreement; any assertion otherwise is baseless. USFOR-A has been clear- we will defend our ANDSF partners if attacked, in compliance with the agreement,” the U.S. military spokesperson Col. Sonny Leggett said in a Twitter post.

He also added “The TB must reduce violence. A reduction in violence is the will of the Afghan people & necessary to allow the political process to work toward a settlement suitable for all Afghans. We once again call on all parties to focus their efforts on the global pandemic of COVID-19.”

The U.S. and Taliban representatives signed a peace deal late in the month of February after observing a week long reduction in violence.

The agreement was signed with an hope to prolong the reduction in violence and subsequently pave the way for the launch of intra-Afghan talks.

However, the Afghan authorities report daily attacks against the security forces in the restive parts of the country despite ongoing efforts to release prisoners and launch intra-Afghan negotiations.


Coronavirus: Mosques in Afghanistan urged to change call to prayer


Mosques in Afghanistan have been urged to change a line in the azan – the daily Muslim call to prayer broadcast five times a day – and people have been reminded not to join congregational prayers due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

In a fatwa, the high commission of clerics for fight against coronavirus urged mosques to say "sallo fi rihalikum" or "pray in your homes" in azan.

In provinces and areas where the virus has not spread to, people should maintain a distance of one meter from each other while offering prayers, according to the fatwa.

Earlier, Afghanistan's Haj and Religious Affairs Ministry also urged people to avoid mosques during coronavirus lockdown.

Fazl Karim Siraji, the ministry's director of mosques, said that they will not allow congregations in mosques during the lockdown.


First Afghan doctor dies of coronavirus disease in Kabul city

06 Apr 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has killed an Afghan doctor in one of the private hospitals in Kabul city, the public health ministry confirmed.

Waheedullah Mayar, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, confirmed that the disease has killed a doctor in one of the private hospitals in the capital.

Without disclosing further information, Mayar said the authorities have collected samples from the remaining 20 doctors and healthcare providers in the hospital to make sure they are not infected.

This comes as the authorities earlier reported that they have recorded 30 new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.

The Ministry of Public Health announced that the public health officials have recorded 16 new cases in Herat, 6 in Kabul, 3 in Nimroz, 2 in Kunduz, 2 in Faryab and 1 in Daikundi.

The new cases increase the number of COVID-19 positive cases to 367 in Afghanistan with the majority of the cases recorded in Herat and Kabul provinces.

The disease has so far killed 9 people across Afghanistan with the last victim being a 80-year-old man who died in North-eastern Takhar province.


Noor lashes out at Rabbani, Abdullah and Saleh for indecent Facebook comments

06 Apr 2020

Ata Mohammad Noor, the chief executive of Jamiat Islami, lashed out at Salahuddin Rabbani, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Amrullah Saleh for recent indecent comments being posted against him on social media.

Noor issued an audio message, blaming the supporters of Rabbani, Abdullah and Saleh for the indecent remarks, urging his own supporters to react to such remarks in social media platforms.

He said certain supporters of Rabbani, Abdullah and Saleh bark like a dog and use abusive words by posting comments under the posts which he share on his Facebook page.

Noor further added that the individuals who post such comments are thieves, vagrants, addicts and are indecent people who are intentionally writing comments with spelling mistakes in a bid to show that they are ordinary people.

Meanwhile, Noor urged his supporters to write positive comments under his posts on social media and take a screen shot of their posts to him.


30 new positive cases of coronavirus recorded in Afghanistan

06 Apr 2020

The Ministry of Public Health announced that the public health officials have recorded 16 new cases in Herat, 6 in Kabul, 3 in Nimroz, 2 in Kunduz, 2 in Faryab and 1 in Daikundi.

The new cases increase the number of COVID-19 positive cases to 367 in Afghanistan with the majority of the cases recorded in Herat and Kabul provinces.

The disease has so far killed 9 people across Afghanistan with the last victim being a 80-year-old man who died in North-eastern Takhar province.

Earlier, the public health ministry officials had announced that the disease has killed a patient in capital Kabul.


North America 

Tiger at NYC’s Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

April 06, 2020

NEW YORK: A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.

The 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia, and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill, are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who wasn’t yet showing symptoms, the zoo said. The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are doing well and expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16 amid the surging coronavirus outbreak in New York.

“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution” and aim to “contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed Nadia’s test result at its veterinary lab, says there are no known cases of the virus in US pets or livestock.

“There doesn’t appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of the infection in the United States,” said Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official.

The USDA said Sunday it’s not recommending routine coronavirus testing of animals, in zoos or elsewhere, or of zoo employees. Still, Rooney said a small number of animals in the US have been tested through the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, and all those tests came back negative except Nadia’s.

There have been reports of a small number of pets outside the United States becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March. Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats couldn’t pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners.

Some researchers have been trying to understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus, and to determine how it spreads among animals, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been recommending that out of an abundance of caution, people ill with the coronavirus should limit contact with animals. In general, the CDC advises people to wash their hands after handling animals and do other things to keep pets and their homes clean.

At the Bronx Zoo, Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions developed dry coughs, and some of the cats exhibited some wheezing and loss of appetite, Calle said.

“In a question of being thorough, we did want to specifically test” for the virus that causes COVID-19, he said. Only Nadia was tested because it takes anesthesia to get a sample from a big cat. Her temperature was taken at the same time, and it was normal, Calle said.

The seven sickened cats live in two areas at the zoo, and the animals had contact with the same worker, who is doing OK, zoo officials said. They said they are taking “appropriate preventive measures” for the staffers that care for the ailing animals, and there are no signs of illness in other big cats on the property.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and can be fatal.


CAIR Urges Maryland Muslims to Join Sunday Statewide ‘Day of Prayer’

April 5, 2020

Ibrahim Hooper

(BALTIMORE, MD., 4/5/20) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is urging Muslims across Maryland to unite with interfaith communities in the state at Governor Hogan’s request and join in prayer from their homes today, Sunday, April 5 at 12 p.m. to remember those who’ve lost their lives to COVID-19 and to pray for the safety of medical workers on the front lines who are combating the disease to help save lives.

“Faith is the most powerful force in the universe to unite communities and process, cope and heal from trauma,” said CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry. “As this devastating disease continues to inflict suffering, upend lives and claim innocent victims, we urge Muslim communities to join this call to prayer by seeking Allah’s mercy for an end to this pandemic, and to remember and honor the victims, first responders and medical heroes who are sacrificing their lives to protect ours.”

CAIR recently launched an online information portal offering vital information on the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on American Muslims and the entire society.


Watch Israel's Merkava Tank Brush Off An Attack From Islamic Jihad's Drone

by Michael Peck

The Youtube video shows what appears to be an aerial – or drone’s eye – view of an Israeli Merkava tank in arid terrain characteristic of southern Israel. As red crosshairs (which appear to have been added after the video was taken) frame the tank, an Israeli soldier is shown walking up to it. Then a puff of smoke suddenly billows next to it. The tank seems to have taken no damage.

The most confusing scene is shown at the 55-second mark. There is an object at the bottom of the screen, with markings and fluttering cloth or paper. Then the object is shown falling through the air toward the tank, followed by an explosion. It is difficult to tell whether the object is part of the original footage, or computer graphics added afterward.

"Your fortresses don't stand before us,” said the video caption in Arabic and broken Hebrew, according to a translation by the Jerusalem Post.

Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen, which is considered pro-Hezbollah, first broadcast the video. The channel wrote, “Al-Quds Brigades reveal the use of drones to attack Israeli occupation tanks in the last round of Gaza fighting."

So was this an actual drone attack, or some doctored film? The best answer is that even if it wasn’t a real drone attack, it could have been – and some day it will be. Israel is one of the world’s leaders in drone technology: the U.S. military has used several Israeli designs, as have other nations such as India. But the fact is that Israel’s enemies also have drones.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese non-state army that is perhaps the most formidable force among Israel’s neighbors, has used drones to overfly northern Israel (the organization even has a drone museum) as well as targeting ISIS. Some have been shot down by Israeli defenses. With Hezbollah’s access to weapons via its patron Iran, the militant group has been able to fly Iranian drones that aren’t as sophisticated as Western designs, but are more than homemade.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip (and has an uneasy relationship with rival Islamic Jihad) has drones to augment its arsenal of rockets. An Israeli newspaper claimed last year that the Israeli military has buried reports that Hamas drones bombed an Israeli town bordering Gaza. “The IDF doesn't know how many explosive-carrying drones were sent over the last year from the Gaza Strip, how many of them made it back in one piece, and whether this is the harbinger of what's to come in the next round of fighting—waves of explosive drones,” said Israeli news site Ynet. “But the working assumption in the Southern Command is that Hamas does have the capability to operate dangerous drones.”

In fact, Hamas has already used a pseudo-drone against Israel: simple balloons and kites armed with incendiary devices that floated over the Israeli defenses along the Gaza border, and set farm fields afire. Israel’s response? Small drones, like the kind used by hobbyists, to down the balloons.

The problem is one of asymmetry. Israel has sophisticated, expensive drones designed to attack heavily defended targets in Iran or Syria. For organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah, merely dropping a bomb on an Israeli town or tank – even if it does no damage – is a political victory.


US, UK brace for soaring death tolls as pandemic bears down

06 April 2020

The United States and Britain braced for one of their darkest weeks in living memory on Monday as the social and financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic deepened. Italy, Spain and France saw signs that they are flattening the pandemic curve, but still reported hundreds of people dying each day.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was infected last month, was hospitalized overnight in what his office described as a “precautionary step,” after persistent symptoms. The 55-year-old Conservative leader, who has had a fever for days, is the first known head of government to fall ill with the disease.

“(I’m) sure this is very frustrating for him ... (but) nonetheless he’s still very much in charge,” Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC. Still, Jenrick did not rule out a more prolonged stay in the hospital for Johnson.

Some hard-hit European areas were seeing glimmers of hope — deaths and new infections appeared to be slowing in Spain, Italy and France. Leaders cautioned, however, that any gains could easily be reversed if people did not continue to adhere to strict social distancing measures and national lockdowns.

More than 9,600 people have died of the virus in the United States, and it leads the world in confirmed infections at more than 337,000.

In New York City, the US epicenter of the pandemic, daily confirmed deaths dropped slightly, along with intensive care admissions and the number of patients who needed breathing tubes inserted. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned it was “too early to tell” the significance of the new numbers.

US President Donald Trump expresses hope for the United States to see a "leveling-off" of the coronavirus crisis in some of the nation

Louisiana health officials reported 68 coronavirus-related deaths, the state’s biggest jump in reported deaths since the outbreak began.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said his the state will return more than 400 of the 500 ventilators it has received from the federal government so they can go to New York and other states hit harder by the pandemic.

The outlook was bleak in Britain, which reported more than 600 deaths Sunday, surpassing Italy’s daily increase for the second day in a row. Italy still has, by far, the world’s highest coronavirus death toll — almost 16,000, but pressure on northern Italy’s intensive care units has eased so much that the hardest-hit region of Lombardy is no longer airlifting patients out to other regions.

In a rare televised address, Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons to rise to the occasion, while acknowledging enormous disruptions, grief and financial difficulties they are facing. In the midst of the speech Sunday night, Johnson was admitted to the hospital.

“I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” the 93-year-old monarch said. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”

Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and nearly 70,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.

The virus is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes. For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause pneumonia and death. Over 263,000 people have recovered worldwide.

In Asia, Japanese officials were considered declaring a state of emergency. Infections are soaring in the country that has the world’s third-largest economy and its oldest population, but are still not even among the top 25 hardest-hit nations in the world.

In South Korea, which has been praised for its heavy testing to combat the virus, vice health minister Kim Gang-lip expressed concerns over loosened attitudes toward social distancing that he says is putting the country at potential risk of an infection “explosion.”

South Korea reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus, the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20, but rising infections have been linked to international arrivals as students and other South Korean nationals flock back from the West.


Trump: US expresses well wishes to Britain's Boris Johnson after covid-19 hospitalization

06 April 2020

US President Donald Trump on Sunday (April 5) expressed well wishes to Britain's Boris Johnson who was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday (April 5) in what Downing Street said was a "precautionary step" because he was showing persistent symptoms of the coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for it.

Johnson, who was isolating in Downing Street after testing positive last month, still had a high temperature and so his doctors felt he should go to an undisclosed hospital for tests in what the government said was a "precautionary step".

"On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests," his Downing Street office said in a statement. Johnson is expected to stay overnight.

"This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus," the statement added.



WHO Africa hosts hackathons, offers seed funds to fight COVID-19

Jake Bright

April 6, 2020

The World Health Organization in Africa is holding virtual hackathons and offering up to $20,000 in seed-funds to finalists with digital solutions to stem COVID-19.

The regional office of the UN agency completed its first challenge earlier this month and will host a second, for French speaking Africa, in coming weeks, WHO’s Technical Officer Moredeck Chibi told TechCrunch.

According to Dr. Chibi, the WHO-AFRO Digital Hackathon series aims to prompt tech applications — with specificity to Africa — to curb the spread and negative impact of COVID-19 — which began to spike on the continent in March.

For the first virtual challenge, WHO selected participants via an online application process and split them into teams via Zoom. Groups were tasked with developing scalable concepts aligned with WHO’s current COVID-19 response strategy, which includes infection prevention and control, case management, surveillance and continuity of health services.

The winning hackathon group, led by Ghanaian Entrepreneur Laud Basing, developed a screening tool concept — operable via mobile app or USSD code — that maps COVID-19 test cases, classifies them according to risk and provides data to national authorities to plan responses. The team will receive $10,000 from the WHO to pilot their concept, and support in locating additional funding and expertise.

Early in March, the continent’s COVID-19 cases by country were in the single digits, but by mid-month those numbers had jumped — leading the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti to sound an alarm on the virus at a March 19 press conference. She noted at the beginning of March there were only five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with cases. That had grown to 30 by mid-month and now stands at 44.

By the World Health Organization’s stats Monday there were 6023 COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa and 240 confirmed deaths related to the virus, up from 463 cases and 8 deaths on March 18.

As COVID-19 spreads in Africa’s major economies, policy-makers and founders have looked to the continent’s tech sector to shapes responses.

The central banks of Ghana and Kenya  have turned to mobile-money as a public-health tool, adopting measures to shift a greater volume of transactions toward digital payments and away from cash — which the World Health Organization flagged as a conduit for coronavirus.

Africa’s largest incubator, CcHub, launched a fund and open call for tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.

And Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia has offered African governments use of its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers.

The WHO’s COVID-19 related Africa hackathons aren’t the first time the organization has turned to the continent’s techies. In 2019, the Geneva  based body launched the WHO Innovation Challenge — a competition to shape “home-grown innovations with potential to solve African health challenges”. It drew 2400 entries from 44 countries.

Those interested in pitching a solution to the World Health Organization’s next hackathon in response to COVID-19 can contact WHO’s regional Africa office.


Coronavirus shutdowns keep African elite from seeking medical care abroad

20 hours ago

Africa’s coronavirus travel ban is making it difficult for rulers and rich people to fly abroad for emergency medical care, as they've done in the past.

For years, leaders from Benin to Zimbabwe have received medical care outside of Africa while their own poorly funded health systems limp from crisis to crisis, The Associated Press reports.

The practice is so notorious that a South African health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, a few years ago scolded, “We are the only continent that has its leaders seeking medical services outside the continent, outside our territory. We must be ashamed.”

But that option could be narrowing as 30 of Africa’s 57 international airports have closed or severely limited flights, the AP reports.

Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, file photo, Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa, right, sits with his Deputy Constantino Chiwenga, left, during a Heroes' Day event in Harare, Zimbabwe. The coronavirus pandemic could narrow one gaping inequality in Africa, where some heads of state and other elite jet off to Europe or Asia for health care unavailable in their nations but as global travel restrictions tighten, they might have to take their chances at home. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

Sewanyana of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, which has long urged African countries to increase health care spending.

The grounding of Africa’s wealthy comes with the World Health Organization warning of an “imminent surge” of COVID-19 cases in Africa.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered the warning in a teleconference with African heads of states, the New York Post reported Saturday.

Africa has more than 7,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with South Africa one of the hardest-hit countries, according to the paper.

A frequent overseas traveler, Cameroon’s 87-year-old leader, President Paul Biya, faces rising criticism over his public absence since the virus spread to his country. Cases in Cameroon lept Friday to over 500, the second-most in the sub-Saharan region after South Africa.

While travel restrictions have grounded the merely wealthy, political analyst Alex Rusero said a determined African leader probably could still find a way to go abroad for care.

“They are scared of death so much they will do everything within their disposal, even if it’s a private jet to a private hospital in a foreign land,” said Rusero, who is based in Zimbabwe, whose late President Robert Mugabe often sought treatment in Asia.

Perhaps nowhere is the situation bleaker than in Zimbabwe, where the health system has collapsed. Even before the pandemic, patients’ families were often asked to provide essentials like gloves and clean water. Doctors reported using bread bags to collect patients’ urine.

Zimbabwe’s vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, departed last month for unrelated medical treatment in China, as the outbreak eased in that country. Zimbabwe closed its borders days later after its first virus death.




One thing we have learnt about the coronavirus over the last three months is that it does not respect borders. It has spread across Asia, Europe, North, Central and South America and Africa.

Distinctions of wealth, poverty, nationality, race and class have been rendered meaningless as infections grow in developed and developing countries alike.

The coronavirus pandemic has served as a stark reminder that in our interconnected world, no country and no nation exists for and of itself. It has affirmed once again that realising a continent and a world free of hunger, want and disease requires the collective effort of all.

South Africa is not the only African country battling to contain the spread of the worst global public health emergency in a century. To date there have been over 7,800 confirmed cases in nearly 50 African countries.

A number of African countries have embarked on similar measures to those we have adopted here, such as border closures, nationwide lockdowns and the roll-out of mass screening and testing programmes.

Last Friday, I convened a teleconference of the African Union Bureau, which consists of the leaders of Egypt, Mali, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. Other participants in the call included the leaders of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal and Zimbabwe. We received presentations from WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr John Nkengasong, who provided an update on the state of the pandemic in Africa and across the world.

There is a common appreciation that this virus, if not contained, could present a very real and serious setback to all our countries as we strive to eradicate poverty, inequality and underdevelopment in already constrained circumstances.

We agreed to establish regional coronavirus task forces in each of Africa’s five regions: Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Northern Africa. They will oversee screening, detection and diagnosis; infection prevention and control; clinical management of infected persons; and communication and community engagement.

While Africa has weak health systems and millions of people live in conditions of poverty, several countries across Africa have wide-ranging and extensive experience in managing infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. The task forces will put this experience to good effect as we confront the current health emergency.

However, Africa is facing a severe shortage of coronavirus test kits, medicines, face masks and other personal protection equipment. We are therefore working with the WHO, Africa CDC and various world leaders to mobilise international support for Africa, to enable the flow of vital supplies into the continent and to significantly increase local production in African countries.

We have established an African Union COVID-19 Response Fund, to which AU Bureau members have already committed $12.5 million. Funding to the Africa CDC, which is driving the continental health response, will be increased, with an additional $4.5 million already committed.

Africa cannot do this alone. During the virtual summit of G20 leaders late last month, I raised the need for financial and logistical support for Africa’s response. Given the substantial toll this pandemic is already taking on African economies, the assistance that will be needed could run into billions of dollars.

A number of measures have been proposed by the AU Bureau, including a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa. This could include debt relief in the form of interest payment waivers and deferred payments. This would free up much-needed financial resources now that national budgets are being reprioritised to support the coronavirus response.

This is really a time when not just the G20 countries but other international partners and financial institutions need to practically demonstrate their commitment to supporting developing economies in Africa and around the world.

In the last week, I have had useful discussions with a number of world leaders including the UN Secretary-General, EU Commission President and the leaders of France, Russia and Cuba. As South Africa, we continue to receive practical support from countries like the United States, China, Cuba and Russia.

Even as these countries struggle to contain the pandemic themselves, they are willing to support South Africa’s and Africa’s response. In uniting behind this global health emergency, as African countries we have shown once again our ability to transcend political and other differences in pursuit of a common objective. We should seize this moment to deepen collaboration across other areas, such as development or trade.

This global pandemic has exposed the fragility of inward-looking and insular political, economic and social systems. It is leading some to call for ‘a new moral economy’ that has people and their welfare at its centre.

It has opened up space for critical action around social spending and equitable access to health care. It is challenging widely-held preconceptions about the abilities of developing countries to respond to national emergencies.

In collaboration with the WHO our pandemic preparedness plans have been solid. In areas where constraints exist, there has been demonstrated commitment to extend support and capacity to those countries in need.

Our Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is world-class. As are our health professionals, scientists and epidemiologists. With the necessary international support, we can bolster health infrastructure and health systems on the continent. At the same time, African countries will help each other.

If we continue in this positive vein, Africa will truly demonstrate it is more than capable of resolving it challenges. Through deeper collaboration, we will turn the tide against this virus, region by region, country by country.


South Sudan 51st of 54 African nations to report virus case

6 April 2020


JUBA, South Sudan -- South Sudan has announced its first case of COVID-19, making it the 51st of Africa's 54 countries to report the disease.

A U.N. worker who arrived in the country from Netherlands on Feb. 28 is ill with the disease, confirmed First Vice President Riek Machar and the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The patient, a 29-year-old woman, first showed signs of the disease on April 2 and is recovering, said officials.

South Sudan, with 11 million people, currently has four ventilators and wants to increase that number, said Machar, who emphasized that people should stay three to six feet apart from others.

The patient is under quarantine at U.N. premises and health workers are tracing the people who had been in contact with her, said David Shearer, head of the U.N. operations in South Sudan.

To prevent the spread of the virus in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir last week imposed a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for six weeks and closed borders, airports, schools, churches and mosques.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority survive. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can be more severe, even causing pneumonia or death.

Recovering from a five-year civil war, South Sudan has several camps of thousands of displaced people. Across the border in Uganda is Bidibidi camp with with more than 250,000 refugees from South Sudan. Crowded and with rudimentary facilities, the camps are viewed as high risk areas for the spread of the virus, according to health experts.

With the disease in South Sudan, now just three countries in Africa have not reported any cases of COVID-19: the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa, and the island nations of Comoros and Sao Tome and Principe.

Ethiopia on Sunday reported its first death from the virus and announced five more cases bringing its total to 43, most of them imported by travelers.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held discussions Sunday with opposition party leaders on measures to combat the virus. A number of Ethiopia's regional states have implemented bans on movement of people and vehicles, but not yet in the capital Addis Ababa.


Southeast Asia

Coronavirus: West Java governor calls on Jakarta residents to stay home during Ramadan


Jeffrey Hutton

JAKARTA - The governor of West Java has warned of an explosion in the number of coronavirus infections and said the return of tens of thousands from the capital to their villages in the most populous province in the country is complicating his efforts to bring the deadly Covid-19 outbreak under control.

Already, rapid testing for the virus has uncovered 677 probable cases of the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, in the province.

Those tests - nasal and throat swabs - are now waiting "in a queue" for confirmation in Jakarta. Official data on Sunday (April 5) put the number of cases in the country at 2,273.

"My personal opinion and my logic is saying that it is a multiple of what is announced," Mr Ridwan said, referring to the likely number of confirmed cases once testing has been done.

Complicating matters is the exodus of likely virus carriers from the capital to villages and towns across the country ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan which begins later this month.

Already, 70,000 people have left the capital - the epicentre of the outbreak in the country, accounting for half the cases - after President Joko Widodo urged local officials to close restaurants, mosques and schools in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, Mr Ridwan said.

But Mr Ridwan stressed that he agreed with Mr Joko, who has so far refused calls for a lockdown. Last week Mr Joko said he was mulling the declaration of an extended holiday later in the year when the epidemic has abated.

India's experience of a nationwide stay-at-home order left millions stranded in big cities like New Delhi with no job or place to stay.

Instead, Mr Ridwan is seeking help from religious leaders. The governor spoke this week with Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin, seeking his help to persuade the country's top clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema council, to lift the fatwa compelling Muslims to return home during Ramadan.

In a 45-minute interview over the teleconferencing platform, Zoom, Mr Ridwan cited specific instances where families were infected by relatives returning home, including an incident that emerged on Saturday where a man returned to his family in Cianjur only to infect three other members of his household.

Mayor Rizal Effendi of Balikpapan told The Straits Times that at least one person in his city of half a million in East Kalimantan had died from Covid-19 and two more remain in isolation.

In Pekalongan, a city with a population of 311,000 in Central Java, Mayor Saelany Machfudz said he had banned large gatherings like weddings and set up temperature checks at bus stations after a suspected Covid-19 patient died last week in hospital.

Last month, West Java province bought 100,000 rapid test kits from South Korea, and has so far distributed more than 63,000 of them to 21 cities.

That was also the case with more than 220 worshippers at a Catholic church in Bandung. The mayor of Bogor and the vice-mayor of province's capital Bandung have also been stricken by Covid-19.

With nearly the same population as South Korea, the province hopes to follow that country's lead by eventually testing 300,000 of its residents.

"West Java is rolling out testing in a systematic way and other provinces are following suit," said analyst Kevin O'Rourke, author of the Indonesia intelligence brief, Reformasi Weekly.

"The tests are cheap and easy to do and help find groups of people who no longer have to worry about the virus and can potentially work on the front line, as in the case of health workers."

The province is readying a 3.2 trillion rupiah (S$280 million) welfare package that will dole out 500,000 rupiah worth of food and cash aid to every household in the province.

Despite the rapid spread of the virus, Mr Ridwan expressed hope that disciplined social distancing would bring the virus to heel by June, adding that he expected a rapid recovery in the economy next year.


AM Best revises Qatar Islamic Insurance Group’s outlook to ‘positive’

06 Apr 2020

The Peninsula

The rating agency AM Best has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of B++ (Good) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of “bbb+” of Qatar Islamic Insurance Group (QIIG).

The ratings reflect QIIG’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorises as very strong, as well as its strong operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.

The revision of the outlook to positive reflects AM Best’s expectation that QIIG will continue to generate strong operating returns over the short to medium term. Qatar Islamic Insurance Group is the pioneer of Islamic Insurance in the State of Qatar offering both Life and non-life insurance products since 1995.

QIIC adopts a combined takaful model and has consistently generated surpluses within the policyholders’ fund and regularly distributed surplus back to policyholders whilst regularly paying attractive dividends to shareholders.


Why favour ‘haram’ product during MCO? Bersatu Youth asks ‘Malay-Muslim’ govt

06 Apr 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — The Youth wing of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia that is part of the ruling coalition today questioned Putrajaya for allowing Heineken Malaysia Bhd to continue its operations during the movement control order (MCO).

The wing compared the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry’s exception to the thousands of businesses that are either halal or permissible in Islam, or Bumiputera-owned.

“Why is this exception given to Heineken beer factory when it is obvious that their business is haram?” it asked in a statement.

Drinking alcoholic beverages is haram, or forbidden, for Muslims. Alcoholic manufacturing by itself is not illegal or forbidden in the country.

The wing also asked whether the factory is linked to any political figures, and asked Putrajaya to explain itself over the decision.

“It is not nice for a Malay-Muslim government to give advantage to a product that is clearly haram in Islam,” said the statement jointly issued by the wing’s religious affairs executive councillor Abu Hafiz Salleh Hudin and information chief Ulya Aqamah Husamudin.

This comes as a letter by the ministry to Heineken went viral online, in which it agreed that the alcoholic drinks manufacturer is a food supply operator and therefore allowed to operate during the MCO.

Malaysiakini later reported Heineken as confirming the letter to be authentic, with the company saying it will only operate with 10 per cent of its staff.

Under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020, food manufacturer is one of the ten original industries in the list of essential services.



April 5, 2020

Amanah today responded to a letter purportedly sent recently by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to world Muslim leaders, saying that it was an attempt by Hadi to mislead the latter on Malaysian politics.

Party communications director Khalid Samad in a statement lambasted Hadi (above) for trying to make Pakatan Harapan component parties look as being anti-Islam.

“Amanah regrets the content of the letter, which was full of allegations and accusations that are baseless, fake, misleading and defamatory in nature.

“It is clear that Hadi through the letter tried to give a false impression on the political situation in Malaysia. We were informed that Hadi had written the confusing explanation after several global Muslim leaders started questioning the logic behind PAS’ actions and political stand of late,” said Khalid (photo).

Last week, a letter in Arabic purportedly signed by Hadi and its translation had gone viral on social media. The PAS chief had purportedly attacked Pakatan Harapan and defended the Perikatan Nasional coalition in the document.

However, attempts to get confirmation on its authenticity had been futile as PAS leaders, including an aide to Hadi, had not responded to requests for comment.

He purportedly said that Harapan’s victory in 2018 had sided with the non-Muslim majority and that Dr Mahathir Mohamad had been used to topple former premier Najib Abdul Razak, and there were opportunities for foreign powers who were anti-Islam to meddle in the country as was what had supposedly happened in other Arab countries.

The letter also took a swipe at Amanah which it said were “secular liberals” who relied on support from Western embassies for strategies, media, and finances.

“All these accusations were made to support Hadi’s argument and to convince recipients of the letter that Harapan is purportedly an enemy of Islam and a threat to the religion.

“Based on these lame arguments, Hadi tried to justify PAS’ action in leading the move to form a backdoor government,” Khalid said.

He also took a swipe at Hadi’s purported claim that there was an internal conspiracy in Harapan to topple Mahathir as prime minister so that those who are anti-Islam can get into power and thus, forcing PAS to take over the government together with its allies.


Jakarta’s streets stand deserted during COVID-19 emergency

April 6 2020

Solemn streets: A few cars pass the usually busy Jl. Jend. Sudirman in Central Jakarta, now devoid of traffic on Wednesday, April 1.The spread of coronovirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is growing worse. Indonesia reported that the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 had surpassed 1,600 on April 2, 2020.

Jakarta, the epicenter of the Indonesian outbreak, is the hardest-hit province with 808 cases. This has prompted Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to declare an emergency and extend the “stay at home” policy to April 19, from the original quarantine period of March 20 to April 2.

With the extended quarantine period in Jakarta, the city’s 10 million residents are working and studying at home. Many entertainment centers and shops have closed, paralyzing economic activity in the usually bustling capital.


Malaysia detains boatload of 202 suspected Rohingya Muslims

5 Apr, 2020

Malaysian authorities said on Sunday they had intercepted a boat ferrying a group of 202 people believed to be ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Malaysia, which does not recognise refugee status, is a favoured destination for ethnic Rohingya fleeing a military-led crackdown in Myanmar and squalid conditions at refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The boat was found adrift around one nautical mile from a luxury beachside resort on the holiday island of Langkawi, off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula, the Malaysian maritime enforcement agency said in a statement.

The agency said it would also investigate complaints from the migrants about three alleged members of a migrant smuggling syndicate who escaped from the boat while out at sea.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a counter-insurgency campaign by Myanmar’s military in the western state of Rakhine in response to attacks in 2017 by a Rohingya insurgent group. Bangladesh now hosts more than a million Rohingya refugees, and traffickers usually lure refugees by promising them a better life overseas.

Hundreds have been stopped by Bangladeshi coastguard officials trying to escape from one of the world’s largest migrant camps.

In February, at least 15 Rohingya refugees died when a vessel carrying about 130 people capsized in the Bay of Bengal while trying to reach Malaysia



Iran producing favipiravir for first time to treat coronavirus: Senior doctor

05 April 2020

Iran has produced favipiravir for the first time as it continues its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, says the head of Iran's Masih Daneshvari Hospital, which is one of the leading medical centers treating patients with the new coronavirus infection in the Iranian capital.

Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, who is also a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, made the remarks in a meeting with the medical staff of the hospital on Sunday.

“Fortunately, favipiravir was produced for the first time at Shahid Beheshti Medical University’s School of Pharmacy and has been made available to Masih Daneshvari Hospital … to be used for treatment of coronavirus patients,” Velayati said.

The new development came after reports indicating that Iranian pharmaceutical companies and leading infectious disease experts have joined hands to produce an anti-malaria drug, recommended by the World Health Organization, to treat COVID-19 patients at a time when US sanctions hinder the country's access to drugs and medical equipment.

They say they will continue to produce the medicine as long as the country needs it. The efforts are particularly crucial as Iran is under one of the toughest sanction regimes ever imposed on a country.

Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Reza Rahmani also said on Sunday that the country will increase the production of protective masks for coronavirus relief to four million per day by the end of the current month.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Iran had an overall capacity to manufacture 700,000 masks per day, the minister said, adding Iran's production of sanitizers has also risen eight-fold.

The United States has refused to lift sanctions on Iran and even tightened them several times in recent weeks, making it almost impossible for the Islamic Republic to access life-saving medications and medical equipment necessary in the fight against the deadly new coronavirus pandemic.

An Iranian Health Ministry spokesman said on Sunday Iran's death toll from COVID-19 had passed the 3,600 mark among a total of 58,226 infected people.

"Fortunately, the recovery process has accelerated and so far 22,011 patients have recovered and been discharged," he added.


Israel keeps 200 Palestinian children in prisons in inhumane conditions: Palestinian commission

05 April 2020

The Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission says nearly 200 Palestinian children are kept behind bars in Israeli prisons in inhumane conditions, undergoing "very rough interrogation process and torture."

The commission announced the news in a statement on the eve of the Palestinian Child's Day on April 5, saying that these minors, who are from the occupied West Bank and eastern sector of Jerusalem al-Quds, are kept in three Israeli prisons, namely Damon, Megiddo and Ofer.

The three prisons lack the basic requirements for human life, said Qadri Abu Baker, the head of the commission, warning that these desperate children prisoners "are subjected to torture and degrading treatment which contradict the international principles of human rights."

He lambasted the United Nations for failing to "provide the minimum protection for the Palestinian children" against the physical and psychological abuse in Israeli jails.

Abu Baker noted that Israeli forces have arrested more than 17,000 minors since 2000, adding that in most cases the children under the age of 10 were detained. He stressed that the majority of these children subjected to physical and psychological torture.

The head of the rights commission called on the UN chief, the Human Rights Council and international organizations, particularly the UNICEF and Amnesty International, to take serious action to pressure the Israeli regime to release all detainees, especially children, whose lives are under threat due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, between 500 and 700 Palestinian children at the age of 12-17 are arrested and tried in Israeli military courts, the Defense for Children International says.

On Sunday, the Palestinians Prisoners' Club said in a statement that the Israeli regime refuses to release jailed Palestinian children despite repeated calls from the international community and rights groups as the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the globe, including the occupied Palestinian territories.

It also stressed that the Israeli authorities keep arrested Palestinian children in jails with dire conditions, lacking the minimum requirements for keeping the inmates. It said that the Israeli prison officials treat the Palestinian children with violence as if they were adults.

It warned that the Israeli prison authorities have put two jailed Palestinian children, suspected of being infected by the contagious disease, in quarantine, instead of releasing them.

The club called on the relevant international bodies, including the UNICEF, to intervene immediately to free the detained Palestinian children.

According to a report by the Arabic-language SAFA news agency, Israeli authorities commit grave violations against the rights of child prisoners from the moment of their arrest and detention.

It said that Israeli forces often raid Palestinian homes late at night to arrest the suspected children and keep them without food or drink for long hours, an in some documented cases for two consecutive days.

The Israeli authorities also frequently threaten and intimidate them, the report further said, adding that the authorities also force them to make confessions under pressure and intimidation.

The report also said that the Israeli authorities force Palestinian children to sign statements in Hebrew without translating them into Arabic for them. They also deny the children their legal right of the presence of a parent and lawyer beside them during the interrogation.

The detention of Palestinian children by the Israeli regime flagrantly violates Article 33 and Article 34 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which the states parties must protect children from abduction and all forms of exploitation.

The Israeli regime has a long history in wounding and killing Palestinian children, especially during anti-occupation protest rallies.

Back in March last year, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said that around 40 Palestinian children had been killed and hundreds more wounded in a year of anti-occupation protest rallies along the fence that separates the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.


Israeli forces rearrest Palestinian governor of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds

05 April 2020

Israeli forces have one again detained the Palestinian governor of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, marking the seventh time Adnan Ghaith has been arrested in less than 18 months.

Palestinian local sources, requesting not to be named, said Israeli troops stormed the house of Ghaith in Silwan neighborhood on the outskirts of the Old City of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds on Sunday and detained him.

A video circulating on social media showed Ghaith, wearing rubber gloves and smoking a cigarette, being escorted by Israeli forces after his arrest.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that Ghaith was detained “for Palestinian activity” in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, “which is illegal,” without providing any further details.

Israeli forces arrested Ghaith on October 14 after carrying out a dawn raid at his home in Silwan. Pictures emerged on social media, showing heavily armed Israeli forces arresting Ghaith inside his home.

On September 25, Israeli forces summoned Ghaith to appear for questioning on suspicion of breaking an Israeli law that bans activities by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israeli authorities also presented his family with the summons and asked his son to appear before Israeli intelligence for questioning.

Israeli forces have arrested the Palestinian Authority Jerusalem al-Quds governor and senior Fatah officials during separate raids in the West Bank.

Israeli forces had again arrested Ghaith back on February 27. He was among 21 Palestinian officials rounded up in overnight raids in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, Ma’an news agency reported at the time.

Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state, and hope that East Jerusalem al-Quds – under Israel’s occupation since 1967 – will one day serve as the capital of their future sovereign state.

More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held at Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have apparently been incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention, a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

Palestinian inmates regularly stage hunger strikes in protest at the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions in Israeli jails.


Yemeni army refutes Saudi allegation of attack on oil pipeline in Ma’rib

05 April 2020

The Spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree has categorically dismissed an allegation by Saudi media outlets that Yemeni troops and allied fighters from the Popular Committees have attacked an oil pumping station in the central province of Ma’rib as “baseless.”

“Since the start of the brutal aggression against our country, we have committed ourselves to sparing national installations, whether they serve all people or only part of it,” the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network quoted Saree as saying on Sunday.

“Even though our missiles and unmanned aerial aircraft have reached the enemy’s depth and targeted its installations, we have never attacked any national facility inside our country.”

Earlier in the day, Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister, Hussein al-Ezzi, said Saudi-led coalition forces had attacked the Kofel pumping station in what he described as a dangerous escalation.

Saudi state-run news agency (SPA) alleged that Yemeni army forces and their allies had targeted an oil pipeline in Safar oil field of Ma’rib, causing damage.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Yemeni official said at least 3,526 educational centers have been affected as a result of the Saudi-led military aggression.

Deputy Yemeni Minister of Education Abdullah al-Naami said at a press conference in the capital Sana’a that such attacks are aimed at keeping the Yemeni nation in the dark.

Naami said Saudi-led forces of aggression have targeted both Yemeni teachers and students over the past five years, emphasizing that 402 schools have been totally destroyed during the onslaught.

He went on to say that some 1,465 educational centers have been partially damaged, while another 666 have been forced to close down. A total of 993 schools are housing internally displaced persons as well.

Ansarullah movement has called on the Saudi-led coalition to consider a mediation proposal aimed at resolving the war on the impoverished country.

Naami highlighted that schools in the provinces of Ta’iz, Sa’ada, Hajjah and Sana’a have had the largest share of direct targeting of educational facilities by the Saudi-led coalition and its mercenaries.

He pointed out that nearly 200,000 teachers have been denied their salaries as a result of the Saudi-imposed blockade, stressing that five million Yemeni students have been affected educationally and psychologically as well.

Naami also said forces of the Saudi-led coalition and their mercenaries have prevented the import of paper needed for printing textbooks meant for Yemeni school students.

Saudi Arabia conducts a rocket attack on a border district in Yemen’s northwestern Sa’ada Province, killing all members of a family.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars' worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in their war on Yemen.

Riyadh and its allies have been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll resulted from their bombing campaign in Yemen.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.


China leading fight against COVID-19, aiding world countries: Iran FM spokesperson

06 April 2020

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson has lauded China’s role in the international struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic and its efforts assisting other countries counter the outbreak.

“The government and people of China lead the way in suppressing coronavirus& generously aiding countries across the world,” Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said in tweet on Saturday.

“The Chinese bravery, dedication & professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserve acknowledgment,” he said, adding that Iran has “always been thankful to China in these trying times”.

China, where the outbreak began last year, however, reported only 30 new infections on Saturday as infections surged in the United States and Europe.

Taking a break from what is appears to be the peak of the outbreak, China has sought to assist countries grappling with the pandemic by providing medical aid and supplies.

China acted extremely quickly and very proactively and with transparency and saved millions of people dying from the coronavirus outbreak, says Dennis Etler.

Iran, which sent several aid shipments to China during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, was sent its ninth aid shipment from China on Sunday.

According to Iran’s Fars News Agency, the shipment contained about one million items consisting of masks, protective clothing and medicine.

Speaking to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani last month, President Xi Jinping said the Iranian government and people offered sincere and friendly support and assistance to China when the virus first emerged in the country. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed his “sincere condolences” to Iran over the coronavirus outbreak, saying Beijing is ready to assist Tehran contain the disease.


Iranians join forces to produce masks in battle against coronavirus

05 April 2020

Iranian women have volunteered to sew masks and protective gowns to fight the spread of coronavirus in Tehran, as the death toll from the virus passed the 3,600 mark on Sunday.

In a workshop in Tehran, dozens of women have been working together since mid-March to produce the protective equipment. The masks are later distributed for free.

The initiative was taken by the Rahiyan Noor Organization. It said the masks were being produced every day.

Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of coronavirus, as the number of cases has risen to 58,226, according to Iran’s Health Ministry.


US hampering Iran's coronavirus fight, crime against humanity: Shamkhani

05 April 2020

A high-ranking Iranian security official says the efforts made by the administration of US President Donald Trump to block Iran's access to financial and other resources it needs to contain an ongoing pandemic of new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, amount to crime against humanity.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), made the remarks in a Sunday Twitter post, saying, “Imposing sanctions [on importation of] hygiene items is an illegal measure against human rights and [a sign of] Trump's clear animosity toward the Iranian nation.”

The Iranian security chief added, “US opposition to International Monetary Fund (IMF) granting loan to Iran to supply necessary items to fight coronavirus [pandemic] is a real instance of crime against humanity.”

The United States has refused to lift sanctions on Iran and even tightened them several times in recent weeks, making it almost impossible for the Islamic Republic to access life-saving medications and medical equipment necessary in the fight against the deadly new coronavirus pandemic.

A Health Ministry spokesman said on Sunday Iran's death toll from COVID-19 has reached 3,603 among a total of 58,226 infected people.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says low-risk economic activities, which have been suspended over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will resume from April 11.

"Fortunately, the recovery process has accelerated and so far 22,011 patients have recovered and been discharged," he added.

In a tweet on March 12, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to extend support to Iran, who is a member state of the Washington-based lender.

Zarif said the IMF managing director “has stated that countries affected by #COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately.”

Iran’s foreign minister writes to the UN chief, urges lifting of the unilateral and illegal US sanctions amid Tehran’s battle against the new coronavirus outbreak.

In an Instagram post, Abdulnaser Hemmati, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), said Iran has asked the IMF for $5 billion emergency funding to fight a coronavirus pandemic as the number of infections keeps growing in the country.

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of a coronavirus pandemic

Hemmati added that he had written to the IMF’s head, Kristalina Georgieva, to stress Iran’s “right to benefit from the fund’s $50-billion Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI).”



31 pilgrims brought from Taftan to quarantine facilities in Pindi, Taxila

April 06, 2020

Amjad Iqbal

RAWALPINDI/TAXILA: A total of 31 pilgrims have been brought from the Taftan border and quarantined at facilities in Rawalpindi and Taxila.

The Rawalpindi district administration on Sunday moved 19 pilgrims to a quarantine facility in the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, and booked three hotels in Saddar to quarantine passengers travelling from abroad to Islamabad International Airport (IIA).

Flashman Hotel, De Mall and Shalimar Hotel on The Mall will be used as temporary quarantine centres. Shalimar Hotel has 90 rooms, De Mall has 47 and Flashman Hotel has 32.

Assistant Commissioner Headquarters Mohammad Iqbal Sanghera told Dawn that although the government will pay the hotels Rs3,000 a day per room through the National Disaster Management Authority, Senator Mian Attique — who owns Shalimar Hotel — has offered his hotel as a quarantine centre for free.

Akbar International and Larosh Hotel on Liaquat Road will also be used to quarantine passengers if numbers increase, he said.

“According to the government’s directives, one flight will be the responsibility of the Islamabad administration while the second flight of the day will be the responsibility of the Rawalpindi administration,” Mr Sanghera said.

Passengers that are suspected patients of Covid-19 will be quarantined for 14 days and other passengers for three days after they land at IIA.

He said that early on Sunday, 19 people were brought from Taftan to IIA, and the district administration has quarantined them in Shamsabad.

Samples from all the pilgrims have been collected and dispatched to the National Institute of Health, he said, adding that they will all be quarantined for 14 days and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will be taken to the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology.

Mr Sanghera added that the district administration has managed to distribute food in areas that have been sealed, with 14 trucks of goods distributed among the underprivileged.

Teams have been formed to monitor the work of the district health authority to screen people, and civic bodies involved in disinfecting areas where patients have been detected.

He said the commissioner and deputy commissioner have given special instructions to civic bodies to complete disinfection work as soon as possible to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to other areas. The Rawalpindi Waste Management Company, Rescue 1122 and Water and Sanitation Agency have been asked to spray chlorinated water on main roads, streets and pavements.

A total of 12 pilgrims who recently returned from Iran were brought from Taftan to a quarantine centre set up by the district administration in a hostel at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Taxila in the early hours of Sunday, health officials said.

Deputy District Officer Health Dr Sara Qadeer said the pilgrims were quarantined at a facility in the Workers Welfare Complex in Multan district and were brought to Taxila because it is close to their hometown, Rawalpindi city.

The quarantine facility at UET Taxila can accommodate 800 people. It offers medical treatment and health screening facilities, while doctors and paramedics have been provided safety kits.

The Government College of Technology Taxila, Labour Colony, Hitec University and other educational institutions have also been vacated by the district administration to quarantine pilgrims and other citizens travelling from abroad.

Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq told Dawn there are four confirmed Covid-19 patients in Rawalpindi who are from Taxila tehsil. Two of them are at the POF Hospital and two at RIU; two have a travel history and another two are local transmission cases.

Health officials said that the Kashmir Colony resident was moved to RIU. Samples have been taken from nine of his family members and sent for testing, while his home has been declared a quarantine centre and posters affixed outside it to restrict public entry and interaction with the family.


Overcrowding in jails declared unconstitutional by IHC

April 06, 2020

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Sunday issued a detailed order on the petitions filed by Adiala jail inmates, declaring that overcrowding in jails is unconstitutional and ruled that a prisoner can sue the government and jail authorities for inhumane treatment during incarceration.

The court issued directives to the federal government and Islamabad’s commissioner for observance of provisions in jail manual as well as in the international conventions and treaties related to the well-being of inmates.

The 38-page verdict authored by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah pointed out alarming conditions of prisoners, loopholes in the criminal justice system and how prisoners are subjected to inhumane treatment. “The intolerable and shockingly inhumane and degrading treatment highlighted in the proceedings in hand meets the threshold of the hypothetical illustration in the above judgement,” the court observed.

Subsequently, the court offered a remedy to the prisoners that they could seek compensation as the order read: “It is, therefore, obvious that the incarcerated prisoners, subjected to the unimaginable degrading and inhumane treatment highlighted in these proceedings, may have become entitled to seek damages against the prison authorities and the state.”

Chief Justice Minallah observed: “Most of the victims of the deteriorating criminal justice system are those who belong to economically and socially marginalized sections of the society. They do not have the means to access the courts nor has the state fulfilled its constitutional obligation in ensuring that each citizen receives ‘inexpensive and expeditious’ justice mandated under Article 37(d) of the Constitution.”

According to the decision, the worst victims of what appears to be a dysfunctional criminal justice system are the pre-trial or under-trial incarcerated persons who are presumed to be innocent but, due to several factors, are treated as condemned prisoners.

The prisoners in their respective applications had claimed they could not access the courts and that they feared being punished by the prison authorities for attempting to draw court attention towards their plight.

On court’s notice, the commission constituted by the court to inquire into prisoners’ miseries submitted a “shocking” report. It disclosed that the overall prison population at the time of filing of the report was around 74,000 while the authorized capacity of all the prisons in Pakistan was 55,634 inmates. In Punjab, 29 out of 41 prisons were found overcrowded while in Sindh eight jails were reportedly overcrowded. “The most disturbing feature is the exceptionally high number of prisoners who retain their presumption of “innocence” till a competent court has handed down a conviction following a fair trial.” Out of 73,721 prisoners across the country, more than 60 per cent (i.e. 44,847) have not been convicted by any court. Another alarming factor is that a large number of prisoners are suffering from serious illnesses such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and mental diseases.

The report stated that jails across Pakistan lacked proper medical facilities, doctors and paramedical staff. It noted that the prisoners were generally neither aware of their rights nor had proper access to courts.

Regarding the basic necessities, the report mentioned the toilets lacked sanitation, the prisoners may have to “wait for hours” for their turn because of overcrowding. The jail hospitals were understaffed and lacked proper equipment, it said, adding that the privileged managed to exploit the system by getting themselves admitted to a hospital even when not in need, while those who required urgent attention became victims to apathy and red-tapism of those managing the prison regimes.

The verdict noted that the prisons were established and being managed under various primary legislations as well as rules and regulations dealing with almost every aspect from admission, incarceration of the prisoners and their treatment till release. The court cited dozens of laws related to prisoners according to which the jail authorities as well as the respective governments could take certain steps for the well-being of the inmates including suspending their sentence and setting them free.

“The most significant legislation promulgated in the context of the right of access to the court and justice of a prisoner was the Public Defender and Legal Aid Office Act, 2009 which aims at promoting justice throughout Pakistan by providing quality and free legal services, protecting individual rights and advocating effective defender services and a fair justice system,” the court verdict noted. “Regrettably, the said law, although enacted, remains non-operational,” it observed.

The Jail Manual, read with the relevant primary statutes, makes it a statutory duty of the prison authorities and the respective governments to treat prisoners in accordance with the minimum standards elaborated therein.

According to the verdict, the Government of Pakistan has ratified seven crucial conventions having relevance to the rights of prisoners, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention on the Rights of the Child; Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Citing the Supreme Court judgement, the IHC ruled that a ratified convention or treaty could be relied upon as long as it was not in conflict with the law enacted in Pakistan, adding that in the case in hand, the provisions of the aforementioned conventions, rather than being in conflict, were in conformity with the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The fundamental rights under Articles 9 and 14 in fact contemplate the obligations of the State under the aforementioned ratified conventions, it ruled.

The object of undergoing a sentence pursuant to being convicted by a competent court of law is to make the convicted person and others realise that what the former has done. However, a non-convicted prisoner has altogether a different status by retaining the presumption of innocence, which is an integral and fundamental part of the right to a fair trial.

According to the court, the Constitution guarantees the right to life under Article 9. It is implicit in Article 9 that it is the duty of the state to ensure that every person incarcerated in the prisons of Pakistan, including those who are convicted for an offence and undergoing sentence.

“The prisoner is thus entirely dependent on the State and at its mercy for the purposes of safeguarding the right to life and to meet medical needs. The State, therefore, owes a duty of care to every prisoner regardless of his or her nature of imprisonment. Every prisoner, without discrimination, has to be treated as a human. Inhumane treatment of a prisoner is a serious violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution,” the court ruled.

Subsequently, the court declared that “overcrowding of prisons, failure to segregate prisoners in accordance with the provisions of the Jail Manual, inhuman and degrading treatment, denial of prompt and timely health assistance, denial of access to proper legal advice and courts, is unconstitutional.”

The court directed the federal government “to take immediate steps…to ensure that prisoners incarcerated in the prisons across Pakistan are dealt with and treated in conformity with the obligations of the State of Pakistan pursuant to ratification of the conventions.”

According to the verdict, the Implementation Commission chaired by the minister for human rights should “endeavour to give effect to the recommendations made in its report and to may consider amending the laws accordingly.

“The federal government is also directed to take steps for making the Public Defender and Legal Aid Office Act 2009 operational to enable the economically underprivileged to have effective access to the right of proper legal advice and courts.

“The registrar is directed to propose a mechanism in order to ensure that each undertrial prisoner, who has a case pending before any court under the jurisdiction of this court and cannot afford the cost, has access to proper legal advice and to the courts.”

The court also directed Islamabad chief commissioner Amir Ali Ahmed “to appoint parole officers and fill other vacancies in order to consider release of deserving prisoners under the Good Conduct Prisoners Probational Release Act, 1926 and the Parole Rules.”

The court disposed of the petitions with the directions to the district and sessions judges of Islamabad to visit the Central Prison, Rawalpindi along with the deputy commissioners of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to enquire whether the prisoners relating to cases pending are treated in accordance with law.


Use of plasma allowed for treating Covid-19 patients in KP

April 06, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has allowed use of plasma extracted from the blood of patients having fully recovered from Covid-19 for the treatment of the fresh cases.

A notification issued from the office of secretary health on Sunday said the Provincial Passive Immunisation Committee proposed by the Hayatabad Medical Complex and comprising health experts and professionals had been given a go-ahead to submit a detailed proposal on the subject for onward submission to the National Bioethics Committee for approval.

On March 28, the Hayatabad Medical Complex’s medical director Prof Shehzad Akbar Khan had requested the health secretary to constitute a committee in accordance with a proposal made by Prof Tahir Shamsi, chairman of the National Passive Immunisation Committee, which had also been approved the US Food and Drug Administration, to treat the fresh patients with plasma extracted from the blood of patients having fully recovered from the disease.

On Friday, the National Bioethics Committee had approved passive immunisation trial by the HMC but waited for the provincial government’s formal approval of the committee to start treatment of coronavirus patients by plasma.

Meanwhile, health minister Taimur Khan Jhagra in a tweet said the committee had been notified to look at and expedite work on passive immunisation.


Govt’s reluctance to restore PMDC may jeopardise career of thousands of doctors

April 06, 2020

Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI: Expressing serious concerns over the federal government’s reluctance to restore the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) despite court orders, health practitioners working in different capacities in the health sector said the situation has not only jeopardized the career of thousands of doctors in and outside Pakistan but also weakened efforts to fight coronavirus pandemic.

They demanded that the government immediately implement the verdict of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and open PMDC’s head office in the federal capital and all its regional offices so that doctors could renew their licences and fresh graduates could start their house jobs and become part of the workforce.

“It’s a very serious matter. Right now, around 15,000 fresh MBBS graduates across the country, who could have played a vital role in the fight against coronavirus, are sitting at home because they can’t start their house job for which they need to get registered with the PMDC,” said Jinnah Sindh Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Tariq Rafi.

Besides, he said that the health system would be losing services of another 15,000 doctors whose house job would end soon.

“To start practice as a doctor, these house officers need to get registered with the regulatory body. But, since PMDC is non-functional, they would be out of the health system,” Prof Rafi explained.

The country was already facing an acute shortage of doctors and not making use of available workforce would greatly weakened Pakistan’s fight against coronavirus, he added.

Other doctors shared similar concerns and said the prevailing situation had also put at risk professional careers of doctors whose registration with the PMDC needed renewal.

“Thousands of qualified postgraduates are waiting for their registration process. Thousands of Pakistani doctors working abroad are also distressed because they can’t get their registration and certificates renewed for continuation of their jobs. The respect Pakistani doctors are getting abroad is due to their registration with the PMDC only,” said Dr Qaiser Sajjad of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

Doctors, he said, were deeply concerned over the attitude of the government, which was not ready to unseal the PMDC building even after the March 30 strict orders of the IHC.

Referring to the court’s orders issued on a contempt of court application filed by PMDC employees, he said the bench had given an hour to the government to open the PMDC and warned of sending officials concerned behind bars.

“Even then, only the PMDC registrar was allowed to visit his office for less than an hour and no employee was allowed to enter the building. The registrar was then forced to leave his office,” he said, citing media reports.

“The situation is very unfortunate. The prime minister also holds the portfolio of the health minister and the PMA believes that bureaucracy is misguiding him. The bureaucracy is the only hurdle in the restoration of PMDC,” Dr Sajjad said.

The PMDC, along with the Council of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan and Pakistan Medical Research Council, came into being in 1962 through an act passed by the assembly.


Body formed in Sindh to finalise guidelines for reopening industries

April 06, 2020

Tahir Siddiqui

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Sunday constituted a committee of health experts, labour and industries secretaries and representatives of the police and Rangers to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for factories so that they could be allowed to resume operation.

He took this decision while presiding over a meeting to review the request of industrialists to allow their production units to start operation to meet export orders.

The meeting was attended by provincial ministers Dr Azra Pechuho, Saeed Ghani, Ikram Dharejo, Nasir Shah, Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab, Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Mahar, Home Secretary Usman Chachar, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon, Labour Secretary Rasheed Solangi and others.

The chief minister said that he had held a meeting with the industrialists, particularly those producing export goods and they requested him to allow the operation of their factories so that they could honour the export orders.

The chief minister directed the home secretary to form a committee comprising medical professionals/experts, industries and labour secretaries, senior members of law enforcement agencies and other concerned to prepare a well-thought and workable SOP in this regard.

He directed the home secretary to notify the committee and ask the members to take the industrialists on board and frame the SOP.

“I want SOPs for every sectors, including shops, bakeries, transport, superstore, malls and even for Ramzan so that everyone could follow it after April 14, if lockdown is eased out,” he said.

Mr Shah said that he was keen to allow export-based industry to start operation but “this is the question of human health and containment of the novel coronavirus, therefore we would have to be careful”.

The provincial government has utilised Rs285 million from the Coronavirus Emergency Fund it has established under the chief secretary.

This was emerged in a meeting of the committee of the fund held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah at the New Sindh Secretariat.

Other members of the committee including Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi, Dr Abdul Bari of the Indus Hospital, Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Foundation and philanthropist Mushtaq Chhapra also attended the meeting.

The committee also approved another Rs5.5m for purchase of kits and necessary equipment for testing and treatment of coronavirus patients.

The meeting was told that till last week Rs3.55 billion had been generated, including Rs2.87bn donated by government entities and Rs68.44m by private entities and people. The donations are pouring in the fund every day, the meeting was told.

The committee, according to its terms of reference, shall roll-out different measures for rehabilitation, long-term welfare and financial well-being of the coronavirus affected persons and their families.

The chief secretary said that each and every penny of the fund would be spent on the recommendation of the committee and the utilisation of the funds would be audited by leading auditors.



Police investigate UK far-right groups over anti-Muslim coronavirus claims

5 Apr 2020

Counter-terrorism police in the UK are investigating far-right groups accused of trying to use the coronavirus crisis to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

The monitoring group Tell Mama said that in March it recorded dozens of incidents of far-right groups allegedly trying to put blame on British Muslims for the spread of the virus.

The group said it had had to debunk numerous claims made on social media that Muslims were breaching the lockdown by continuing to attend mosques to pray. There were also incidents where Muslims were attacked, it said.

In one tweet from a prominent white nationalist, claims were made that Muslims were breaching the lockdown by congregating outside a mosque in Wembley. Tell Mama debunked this claim, and after it encouraged others users to report the content, Twitter removed the tweet and placed restrictions on the account.

A video shared on Telegram by Tommy Robinson, the founder and former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), was alleged to show a group of Muslim men leaving a “secret mosque” in inner-city Birmingham. The video was watched 10,000 times on the platform. The claims were subsequently dismissed by West Midlands police.

West Yorkshire police similarly dismissed images allegedly showing Muslims attending Friday prayers, pointing out they were taken before the lockdown was announced.

Shropshire police took action after a tweet from a far-right-leaning account maliciously claimed that a mosque was flouting the lockdown. The content was also reported to Twitter.

Iman Atta, the director of Tell Mama, said: “These extremists are using coronavirus to get their pervasive message across that somehow the Muslim communities are to blame for the spreading of the virus.

“It is mainly repeat offenders – individuals who are already known to hold anti-Muslim views – who are repeatedly seeing this as a way to cause community turmoil and tension. It is at times like this when there are pressures in society that some people manipulate this to fuel hate and division across communities.”

High-profile accounts linked to spreading malicious rumours against Muslims have included those of Katie Hopkins and the former Ukip leader Gerard Batten.

Hopkins shared a video of police in India assaulting people for congregating at a mosque, tagging in Humberside police. She wrote: “Indian police assisting young ‘men of peace’ to disperse from crowded mosque during lockdown. Something to aspire to hey @Humberbeat?”

In a tweet that went viral, Batten suggested mosques would remain open as the government would be “too afraid” to close them. Batten has also promoted conspiracy theories about Covid-19 being a Chinese “bioweapon”.

In another incident reported to Tell Mama, a Muslim woman said she was approached by a man who coughed in her face and claimed he had coronavirus.

The alleged assault in Croydon, south London, on 18 March has been reported to the Metropolitan police. The woman, who wears a hijab, said she tried to avoid her attacker but the man turned towards her and “got in her face”.

She informed him she had already contracted virus and recovered and was therefore immune, after which he swore at her and used a racial slur before leaving.

David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, said counter-terrorism police were looking into reports that rightwing groups were trying to use the pandemic to create division.

“We have become aware that this is being used as an opportunity by rightwing groups to point the blame at some ethnic groups. It does not take a lot for these things to break down and for tensions to arise in these communities. It’s something we are monitoring very closely,” Jamieson said.

If you have been affected or have any information, we'd like to hear from you. You can get in touch by filling in the form below, anonymously if you wish or contact us via WhatsApp by clicking here or adding the contact +44(0)7867825056. Only the Guardian can see your contributions and one of our journalists may contact you to discuss further.

The advocacy group Hope not Hate said it had also identified an anti-Muslim misinformation campaign alleging that mosques were still open in defiance of government advice.

A spokesperson said: “Far-right activists in the UK are increasingly united in their view that globalisation and immigration are to blame for the ongoing pandemic. They are also relishing the opportunity to promote racist stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Chinese people on extreme message boards and channels.”


British PM Boris Johnson admitted to hospital for Covid-19 tests


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus.

On the advice of his doctor, the Prime Minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests. This is a precautionary step, as the Prime Minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus," the spokesperson said.

The Prime Minister thanks NHS staff for all of their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the Government's advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, the spokesperson added.

Johnson had extended self-isolation as he gave an update on his health via social media on Friday, which should have marked the end of the stipulated seven-day self-isolation period after his Covid-19 diagnosis last week.

He said he still has a temperature, one of the symptoms associated with coronavirus, and would therefore have to stay in isolation for longer.

"Although I'm feeling better and I've done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom, Johnson said in a new video message.

"I still have a temperature and so, in accordance with government advice, I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes," he said.

Johnson was last seen, still looking quite poorly, when he made a brief appearance at Downing Street on Thursday night to join the national clap for carers applause in appreciation of the hardwork of National Health Service (NHS) workers on the frontline of the fight against the outbreak.

"Remember that incredible clapping again last night for our fantastic NHS. We're doing it to protect them and to save lives. Let's focus on doing everything we can. Stay at home folks, protect our NHS, save lives," he said.


There With You: Barking Mosque a real pillar of the community during coronavirus crisis

06 April 2020

Despite this being a time Of fear and worry, Ash Siddique from Barking Mosque says people are really showing their “humanity”.

Ash – a trustee of the mosque for 25 years – is now part of a volunteering network that is helping hundreds of people in the area.

As one of the faith groups working on the BD Can initiative with Barking and Dagenham Council, mosque secretary Ash believes that “local authorities are starting to really see the power of voluntary organisations who work quietly in the community”.

Crates of food delivered by Barking mosque to 200 homes in the community. Picture: Ash SiddiqueCrates of food delivered by Barking mosque to 200 homes in the community. Picture: Ash Siddique

Ash adds that it is also starting to see the benefits of an 18-month-old parenting programme, with parents and children now both seeking advice from the mosque on how to manage living in such close quarters.

A new service involves reaching the elderly in the community, with whom Ash says the mosque has always had a “strong relationship.

“Our volunteers are calling the elderly or going to their homes to talk to them from a safe distance. We want them to stay connected – so far we have helped between 45-50 people.”

There With You - the Barking and Dagenham Post's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.There With You - the Barking and Dagenham Post's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.

“Two days ago, we met up with an organisation who had a healthy supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. We delivered it to over 200 homes.”

Ash is dedicated to continuing the hard work, and is proud of the fact that Barking Mosque does not discriminate with respect to whom it helps


Worry prices could rise again in Bradford as Ramadan approaches

5 hrs ago

Last month, as the coronavirus crisis began to take a hold, a number of independent supermarkets were accused of profiting from price hikes on essential everyday items amid uproar from regular customers.

Pictures of green chillies with extortionate price tags emerged on social media, while one woman reported how she was charged £9.50 for toilet roll.

He said: "As we go through the most difficult time, being affected by the current crisis facing our nation, it was heartbreaking to learn that some of the businesses were taking advantage of such a difficult times and they had increased their prices substantially.

"When the families in my ward are already living in one of the most deprived areas and at times when the income remained the same but expenses had increased due to selfish businesses having increased their prices, I was worried that there would be some children and families who may not get some food due to price rises."

"There was one report of a chicken worth £10 being sold for £60. Some of the businesses have been selfish and greedy in what we are all going through at the moment.

"I and my colleagues will not hesitate to be the voice against, oppression, misuse, abuse and those taking advantages of current crisis."

Kanapeena Supermarket said a shortage of supply of essential items forced them to up prices, as manufacturers were struggling to keep up with demand.

As panic buying took hold across the country, most major supermarket chains were forced to bring in restrictions to ensure everyone was able to buy the essentials. Bradford Council urged people to stop stockpiling and leader Susan Hinchcliffe hit out at price rises.

Councillor Shafiq said while prices of items like meat, rice, fruit and toilet paper have now been brought back to "normal prices" the campaign will not stop as concerns have been raised that some retailers also hike their prices during the month of Ramadan, which this year is due to begin on the evening of Thursday, April 23.

"I urge our communities to always get a receipt when purchasing any food from businesses as a proof of purchase," Cllr Shafiq said.


Family's thanks for extraordinary efforts to allow 104-year-old's Islamic funeral to take place

ByJosh Layton

5 APR 2020

A centenarian from Coventry who passed away with coronavirus has been laid to rest after an extraordinary effort from one of the city’s biggest mosques.

Akbar Jan, 104, was given a final farewell in accordance with her family’s Islamic beliefs after the Al-Madinah Institute trained and equipped a new team to meet stringent health and safety guidelines issued in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The grandmother’s funeral went ahead with her family’s blessing after the mosque and community centre, in Queen Mary’s Road, launched its Covid-19 Funeral Service to meet the new advice aimed at preventing further spread of the infection.

Concern had arisen among Britain’s Muslim community that restrictions around health and hygiene would mean they would not be able to bury loved ones in accordance with their faith.

However, the ceremony took place after the mosque took a range of measures, including using full personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the guidance.

Mohammed Arif, Mrs Jan’s son, expressed his gratitude to the “thoroughly professional” team in a message shared on its Facebook page.

Mr Arif said: “People often speak about professionals and those on the frontline. I was part of something yesterday that deserves more than a mention between family members.

“We were all worried about the Ghusul [washing] and Janazzah [funeral prayers] but one special group of individuals at the Al-Madina Masjid on Queen Mary’s Road, Coventry, helped and guided us through the process.

"Shaykh Nabeel Afzal Qadri, Khalid, Gohar and the other individuals were thoughtful, caring, supportive and above all thoroughly professional.”

Mrs Jan was taken into hospital on March 3 after suffering a stroke and passed away on March 27 having testing positive for Covid-19. The funeral was the first held by the mosque, which is a registered charity, under the new Government restrictions, and it has since conducted two more.

The institute has switched its focus after closing for general worship under the measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and is also running a community outreach service aimed at providing food, medicine and support for elderly and vulnerable people.

Imam Nabeel Afzal said: “When the news first came out that funerals would be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak there was deep concern in the Muslim community that families would not be able to hold funerals in accordance with their beliefs or that cremations would have to be held instead of burials.

"There were a lot of things being said on social media and the thought that loved ones would be buried without being washed, showered or without prayers being said was something many people in the local community found distressing.

“We got in contact with the NHS and Coventry City Council and after consulting medical experts and looking at the Government guidelines we found that we could handle bodies as long as health and safety precautions are in place, including PPE and the use of disinfectant and hand-sanitisers.

“We also put precautions in place for the transport of the deceased and for prayers to take place in the car park with two to two-and-a-half metre spacing between a limited number of mourners from the immediate family only. With these rules in place we have been able to ensure that families can fulfil their obligations and the last rites are fulfilled in the traditional way.”

Public Health England (PHE) has said there is a "small but real risk" of Covid-19 being transmitted from a dead body to a human, which has implications for the Catholic, Muslim and Jewish faith groups who practice final rituals involving close contact with the deceased.

These include those in close contact with the deceased wearing the correct PPE and social distancing between limited numbers of mourners. Mohamed Omer, board member of Gardens of Peace, welcomed the new PHE guidance earlier this week.

Mr Omer said: “We welcome the new guidance from PHE and would like to reiterate that it is essential that we maintain social distancing at all times, including at funerals. We should also severely curtail the numbers who attend the funerals so as to ensure that staff working at burial sites and others are protected. If circumstances dictate then we should contemplate, as hard as it may seem, no attendees at funeral time.

“It is also welcoming to note that we can perform our ritual wash as long as we observe the necessary precautions of wearing the right PPE and follow the process included in this guideline. It is hoped that there will be uniformity now in the whole system so that there is no confusion and conflicting reports on the risk of handling a Covid-19 deceased person.




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