Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

A rush of people on Thursday outside an electronics market in Karachi, after Pakistan started easing the lockdown restrictions. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

  • The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s coronavirus infections have surpassed neighboring China — once the region’s hotbed — as the national tally on Thursday reached 86,913, with doctors warning the government of a health crisis in the coming days if appropriate measures are not taken to flatten the curve.

China, where the virus emerged last year, has recorded 84,160 cases and imposed strict lockdowns to curb the disease. But in Pakistan, with 1,770 reported deaths and the infection count nearing 87,000, has been easing lockdowns countrywide since mid-May.

“People should not get scared by the surge in cases. It’s a pandemic and we need to deal with it wisely and courageously,” Sajid Hussain Shah, spokesperson at the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Thursday.

A total of 4,688 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 82 deaths, the highest single-day rise ever, landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of the coronavirus cases,.

The country has also enhanced its daily testing capacity to over 20,000 and has conducted 615,511 tests.

The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May, contrary to the recommendation of doctors and experts who advocated their extension to stem the spread of the virus.

Previously, the government had decided to shut down public places, the transport sector and markets on March 23. Now, the authorities are blaming the people for not adhering to social distancing regulations and other precautions, pointing out that negligence has led to the growing outbreak.

“We have witnessed a spike in the cases after people violated the government’s prescribed precautionary measures,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News.

The country’s federal capital has reported 3,544 positive coronavirus cases with 38 deaths and 5,680 tests so far.

“We are diligently working on contact tracing and surveillance in the high-risk population areas to contain the virus,” Zia said. “We are also ensuring a smart lockdown in the areas where COVID-19 cases are reported to prevent its further spread.”

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has blamed the government for the surge in the cases due to its “noncoherent and confusing policy” to deal with the disease.

“The government has failed to adopt a uniform policy on dealing with the virus from day one, so the result is quite obvious,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, PMA secretary general, told Arab News.

He warned that the country’s health facilities had reached the brink of collapse with the sharp growth in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. “If the rising trend of the coronavirus cases is not contained or reversed, the health facilities may crumble in the coming days,” he said.

The PMA is also concerned by the increasing number of infections of doctors and paramedics. At least 30 health care practitioners — including 26 doctors and four nurses — have died due to the virus, while more than 2,100 have been infected so far, according to the PMA.

“Many private and public hospitals have already started refusing to admit coronavirus patients with ventilators and beds getting short in the medical facilities,” Sajjad said, urging the government to quell propaganda on social media that “coronavirus does not exist in Pakistan.”

There are 746 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities and 4,918 patients have been admitted across the country.

“We have been further extending our health facilities to deal with the pressure,” the Shah of the health ministry said. “Our hospitals are fully equipped and coping with the need.”


Biden’s transition gets green light as Trump at last relents

Updated 24 November 2020

Biden’s transition gets green light as Trump at last relents

  • Trump tweeted that he was directing his team to cooperate on the transition

WASHINGTON: The federal government recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election on Monday, formally starting the transition of power after President Donald Trump spent weeks testing the boundaries of American democracy. He relented after suffering yet more legal and procedural defeats in his seemingly futile effort to overturn the election with baseless claims of fraud.
Trump still refused to concede and vowed to continue to fight in court after General Services Administrator Emily Murphy gave the green light for Biden to coordinate with federal agencies ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. But Trump did tweet that he was directing his team to cooperate on the transition.
Monday’s fast-moving series of events seemed to let much of the air out of Trump’s frantic efforts to undermine the will of the people in what has amounted to a weekslong stress test for American democracy. But Trump’s attempts to foment a crisis of confidence in the political system and the fairness of US elections haven’t ended and are likely to persist well beyond his lame-duck presidency.
Murphy, explaining her decision, cited “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results.”
She acted after Michigan on Monday certified Biden’s victory in the battleground state, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania tossed a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in that state.
It also comes as an increasing number of Republicans were publicly acknowledging Biden’s victory, after weeks of tolerating Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. The president had grown increasingly frustrated with the flailing tactics of his legal team.
“With Michigan’s certifying (its) results, Joe Biden has over 270 electoral college votes,” tweeted Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. “President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election. I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.”
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”
He added: “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
Murphy, a Trump appointee, has faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administration. The delay denied Biden access to receive highly classified national security briefings and hindered his team’s ability to begin drawing up its own plans to respond to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Murphy insisted she acted on her own.
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official— including those who work at the White House or GSA— with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” she wrote in a letter to Biden.
Trump tweeted moments after Murphy’s decision: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, criticized the delay but said Biden’s team would be able to overcome it.
“Unfortunately, every day lost to the delayed ascertainment was a missed opportunity for the outgoing administration to help President-elect Joe Biden prepare to meet our country’s greatest challenges,” he said. “The good news is that the president-elect and his team are the most prepared and best equipped of any incoming administration in recent memory.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the GSA action “is probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue.″ Noting that the nation “faces multiple crises that demand an orderly transition,″ Schumer urged Democrats and Republicans to “unite together for a smooth and peaceful transition that will benefit America.″
Murphy’s action came just 90 minutes after Michigan election officials certified Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state. The Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the results on a 3-0 vote with one GOP abstention. Trump and his allies had hoped to block the vote to allow time for an audit of ballots in Wayne County, where Trump has claimed without evidence that he was the victim of fraud. Biden crushed the president by more than 330,000 votes there.
Under Michigan law, Biden claims all 16 electoral votes. Biden won by 2.8 percentage points — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results like Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Some Trump allies had expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that do not certify. That long-shot bid is no longer possible in Michigan.
“The people of Michigan have spoken. President-elect Biden won the State of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement, saying it’s “time to put this election behind us.”
The Trump legal team dismissed the certification as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would continue to mount legal challenges.
Trump’s efforts to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — have faced increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory. Time and again, Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.
Trump was increasingly frustrated by his legal team, led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose erratic public performances drew bipartisan mockery in recent weeks. Still, the legal challenges were expected to continue, as Trump seeks to keep his supporters on his side and keep his options open for opportuntities post-presidency.
In Pennsylvania on Saturday, a conservative Republican judge shot down the Trump campaign’s biggest legal effort in the state with a scathing ruling that questioned why he was supposed to disenfranchise 7 million voters with no evidence to back their claims and an inept legal argument at best.
But the lawyers still hope to block the state’s certification, quickly appealing to the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which ordered lawyers to file a brief Monday but did not agree to hear oral arguments.
The campaign, in its filings, asked for urgent consideration so it could challenge the state election results before they are certified next month. If not, they will seek to decertify them, the filings said.
Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.
Pennsylvania county election boards were voting on Monday, the state deadline, about whether to certify election results to the Department of State. The boards in two populous counties split along party lines, with majority Democrats in both places voting to certify. After all counties have sent certified results to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, she must then tabulate, compute and canvass votes for all races. The law requires her to perform that task quickly but does not set a specific deadline.
In Wisconsin, a recount in the state’s two largest liberal counties moved into its fourth day at a slow pace, with election officials in Milwaukee County complaining that Trump observers were hanging up the process with frequent challenges. Trump’s hope of reversing Biden’s victory there depends on disqualifying thousands of absentee ballots — — including the in-person absentee ballot cast by one of Trump’s own campaign attorneys in Dane County.
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Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia, Jonathan Lemire in New York, Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed to this report.
Summary :
The federal government has recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election. That formally starts the transition of power after President Donald Trump has spent weeks testing the boundaries of American democracy. The move came after Trump suffered yet more legal and procedural defeats in his seemingly futile effort to overturn the election with baseless claims of fraud. Trump still has refused to concede the election. But Monday’s fast-moving series of events seems to let much of the air out of Trump’s frantic efforts to undermine the will of the people.