Over 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims return home from Hajj

“[The returnees include] 9,000 from the government quota and 5,000 who were using services offered by private tour and Hajj operators,” Imran Siddiqui, MRA spokesman said in a statement. (Ministry of Religious Affairs/Twitter)
Updated 22 August 2019

Over 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims return home from Hajj

  • 110,000 others are still in Makkah
  • Specially designated flights to bring the Hajjis home will continue until September 15

ISLAMABAD: More than 20,000 pilgrims returned to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia since August 17, 2019 after completing the Hajj pilgrimage, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“[The returnees include] 14,000 from the government quota and 6,000 who were using services offered by private tour and Hajj operators,” Imran Siddiqui, MRA spokesman said in a statement, adding that 100,000 others are still in Makkah.
He added that special flights – which began on August 17 to bring the 200,000 pilgrims back – will continue until September 15.
“Elaborate arrangements have been made on Pakistan’s 10 airports to welcome the pilgrims on their return,” Siddiqui said, adding that this year, major airports in the country had also stocked up on Zamzam water – as part of an initiative by the Kingdom – to distribute among pilgrims upon their arrival home.
Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri lauded the Kingdom’s arrangements and hospitality extended to pilgrims during Hajj this year.
“We are thankful to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi ministries of Interior, Hajj and also the governor of Makkah for the best arrangements for Hajj this year,” Qadri said in a statement on August 15.
For the first time this year, a pre-immigration pilot program was launched at the Islamabad International Airport as part of Saudi’s Road to Makkah project which Pakistan had been included in on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had made the announcement during his historic visit to Islamabad in February this year.
The initiative was aimed at facilitating Hajj pilgrims by way of a faster immigration process which helped them save up to 10 hours of waiting time on their arrival in Saudi Arabia.


Pakistan Medical Association, doctors fear coronavirus surge as lockdowns lifted nationwide

Updated 09 August 2020

Pakistan Medical Association, doctors fear coronavirus surge as lockdowns lifted nationwide

  • Islamabad’s PIMS hospital had less than 10 coronavirus patients before Eid Al-Adha but new patients coming in since
  • Pakistan announced on Thursday it was opening virtually all sectors closed down in March to stem the spread of COVID-19

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and infectious disease experts on Thursday warned of a possible surge in coronavirus cases due to a premature lifting of restrictions, as the government announced a day earlier that it was opening virtually all sectors closed down in March to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Pakistan shut schools and land borders nearly five months ago, decided to limit domestic and international flights and discouraged large gatherings to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus. But with infections and deaths down nearly 80 percent since their peak as per government records, the government decided on Thursday to lift the lockdowns to help the country return to normalcy.
Pakistan celebrated the Eid Al-Adha religious holiday last week. After the last major Islamic festival, of Eid Al-Fitr, in May, infections rose to their peak in Pakistan.
Dr. Nasim Akhtar, head of infectious diseases at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad, told Arab News the coronavirus ward at her hospital only had five to six patients before Eid, but new patients had once again started coming in.
“Cases registered a sharp increase after Eid Al-Fitr, and this can happen now again with the lifting of the lockdowns,” she said, adding that the government should have waited at least two more weeks to reopen restaurants and other public places.
“This is a bit early, and may worsen the situation again,” Akhtar said.
The World Health Organization has said “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns, amid global concerns about a second wave of infections.
Germany earlier reported an acceleration in new coronavirus infections after it took early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that had succeeded in limiting virus infections, saw a new outbreak.
“The next week is crucial to see if the infections soar as just one week has passed now since the Eid holidays,” Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News.

 

 

Cases could also surge during the Islamic month of Muharram, which begins in late August, he said, and due to independence day celebrations on August 14. Huge crowds come out all over the world, including in Muslim-majority Pakistan, to commemorate the slaying of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).
“We think that the opening of all these things in a hurry ... probably this will create problems for us,” Sajjad said.
He said infections had risen sharply in the United States and Brazil after the nations lifted restrictions when cases initially declined. Spain reported 1,772 new coronavirus infections on Aug 6, marking the biggest jump since a national lockdown was lifted in June.
University of Health Sciences vice chancellor Javed Akram, however, called the reopening of public places a “wise decision.”
“The government cannot keep the cities and businesses under lockdown forever,” he said. “People should follow health guidelines to fight the virus.”