Hundreds pray in Malaysia for missing Franco-Irish teen

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Members of Malaysian rescue team prepare for a search and rescue operation for the missing the 15-year-old Franco-Irish girl Nora Quoirin in Seremban on August 8, 2019. (AFP)
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People attend the Friday prayer dedicated for the safety and recovery of the missing 15-year-old Franco-Irish girl Nora Quoirin at a mosque near the search and rescue area in Seremban on August 9, 2019. (AFP)
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Royal Malaysian Police participate in a search and rescue operation for the missing 15-year-old Franco-Irish, Nora Quoirin in Seremban on August 8, 2019. (AFP)
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People attend the Friday prayer dedicated for the safety and recovery of the missing 15-year-old Franco-Irish girl Nora Quoirin at a mosque near the search and rescue area in Seremban on August 9, 2019. (AFP)
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A Royal Malaysian Police officer hands a poster to a motorist bearing a portrait of the missing 15-year-old Franco-Irish girl Nora Quoirin during a search and rescue operation in Seremban on August 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2019

Hundreds pray in Malaysia for missing Franco-Irish teen

  • They have questioned around 20 people and are examining fingerprints found on a window pane

SEREMBAN, Malaysia: Hundreds of Muslims held a special prayer session Friday for a Franco-Irish teen who went missing from a Malaysian resort, as a massive search team scoured the jungle for a sixth day.
Nora Quoirin, a 15-year-old with learning difficulties, disappeared Sunday a day after checking into the resort with her London-based family.
They believe she was abducted, but police have classified it as a missing person case.
A search team of more than 260 people backed by helicopters, drones and sniffer dogs is poking through dense jungle next to the resort in southwestern Malaysia but have not found any trace of the teenager.
Some 300 people, many wearing Muslim prayer caps, knelt in prayer during a session dedicated to the teen at a mosque in a nearby town.
“What we’re doing today is to help our friends in the search effort,” said Mohamad Taufek Awaludin, who led the session.
“We hope that the family... will be patient. This is a test from Allah.”
Several police officers and firefighters were among the group. Roughly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 32 million inhabitants are Muslim.
Officials have played a recording of the girl’s mother, Meabh Quoirin, calling out “Nora, Nora darling, mummy’s here” through loudspeakers in the hope of drawing her out of the jungle, if she is still there.
Members of a special police commando unit arrived Friday to help in the search.
Senior police official Che Zakaria Othman conceded the search team had not uncovered any “concrete” clues about the girl’s disappearance.
But he added: “The security forces have not, to this day, given up.”
The daughter of a Franco-Irish couple, Nora went missing from the 12-acre (five-hectare) Dusun Resort, which lies near a forest reserve not far from Kuala Lumpur, in the foothills of a mountain range.
Her family says it would be extremely unusual for the reserved youngster to have wandered off on her own. While officially treating it as a missing person case, police say they have not ruled out other possibilities.
They have questioned around 20 people and are examining fingerprints found on a window pane.


Pakistan research body chief urges virus vigilance for Eid Al-Adha holiday

Updated 15 July 2020

Pakistan research body chief urges virus vigilance for Eid Al-Adha holiday

  • Despite ‘plateauing’ in COVID-19 cases, government was not downplaying death toll: Head of research body

ISLAMABAD: The head of a Pakistani health research body has urged the public to stick to rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) especially during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday.

Maj. Gen. Prof. Aamer Ikram, executive director of Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH), warned of the vital need for people to continue to follow social-distancing guidelines, wear face masks, and adhere to other virus precautionary measures.

After reporting its first COVID-19 case in late February, Pakistan has to date officially recorded 255,769 infections, with 5,386 deaths.

Cases spiked in May after the government lifted an almost two-month-long lockdown, mostly over its economic and financial impact, and ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr festival. Instead, it imposed smart lockdowns in selected areas of several cities, saying that it feared COVID-19 cases could multiply eightfold by the end of July and hit 1.2 million.

“After Eid Al-Fitr, we witnessed a surge in COVID-19 positive cases. Now Eid Al-Adha is arriving, and by strictly adhering to standard operating procedures we can make a real difference,” Ikram told Arab News.

The government was not downplaying the true extent of the country’s COVID-19 death toll, he said, but the rate of infections had gone down in the last week and the virus curve had “plateaued.”

He added: “We cannot hide the number of deaths. If you see the statistics of the last one week, there is a reduction in the number of deaths.”

Ikram pointed out that Pakistani authorities wanted to ensure “data accuracy” and were vigilant in digging out any discrepancies in numbers.

The health official noted that data from the last 10 days showed that Pakistan had “attained the plateau and it is coming down now. The government’s strategy of smart lockdown has played a very pivotal role in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases.”

On Tuesday, Pakistan recorded 1,979 new cases of COVID-19, following 21,020 nationwide tests in 24 hours, marking the lowest number of new infections in weeks.

However, critics said the rate of infections had gone down because less testing was taking place.

“One of the reasons of reduction in tests is that the WHO (World Health Organization) has changed earlier policy of two mandatory negative tests of recovered patients, 24 hours apart, before discharging them from hospital, which is not required now,” Ikram said.

He added that Pakistan had previously been testing all incoming international passengers but was now only testing those who showed COVID-19 symptoms. “We are now only screening them, that also reduced the (testing) load.”

The NIH chief said Pakistan had been the first country in the region to start COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, initially conducting 300 tests per day but now carrying out more than 150,000 daily checks using 135 testing labs.

On Wednesday, the government’s COVID-19 portal showed that 21,749 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, with a running total of 1,627,939 tests since March.

Last month, Pakistan’s minister for science said the country would begin manufacturing testing kits locally from July. However, Ikram said indigenous kits were still under final evaluation and would be put out for commercial use after all mandatory protocols had been completed.

He added that the government was already working on preparing a strategy to acquire a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as one became available anywhere in the world.

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