Pakistan: Coronavirus, Lives and Livelihoods

Coronavirus infection rates and deaths in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world while the continuing lockdown is causing enormous damage to the nation's economy and livelihoods, according to government data. Health ministry data shows that fewer than a thousand lives have been lost to the disease in the country since the start of COVID19 infections more than two months ago. Meanwhile, millions of people in manufacturing, retail and the unorganized sectors are unemployed or underemployed. All of this is happening during Ramzan and Eid periods that account for bulk of retail sales in the majority Muslim country of 220 million. Pakistanis do not necessarily face the same level of risk from coronavirus as people living in America and Europe do.


Age Distribution of Covid Cases/Deaths in Pakistan. Source: covid.gov.pk


Age Factor in Covid19 Mortality:


Over 40% of all coronavirus deaths in Europe and America have occurred among the elderly living in nursing homes. Pakistanis age 60+ account for 19% of cases but 58% of deaths. Like US and Europe, older people are much more likely to die from coronavirus in Pakistan.  But average life expectancy in Pakistan is just 67 years and the median age in the country is only 22 years. The explanations offered for low death rates in South Asia include younger populations, more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, universal BCG vaccinations etc. Yale researchers have argued in a recently published paper to consider universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as an alternative to complete lockdown.


March 2020 Manufacturing Data. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

Pakistan Manufacturing Data:

The March figures released by Pakistan Bureau Statistics confirm a precipitous drop of 22.95% in large scale manufacturing. This reflects halt in production in just the last one week of March 2020. April 2020 figures are almost certain to be a lot worse due to complete halt in production amid lockdown. It's spelling disaster for millions of employees and households linked to these industries. Government handouts can not replace household incomes generated from these industries.

While food production held up well in March, manufacturing of durables like air-conditioners, refrigerators, and deep freezers have plummeted. For example, production of refrigerators fell 34% from 86,107 in March 2019 to 56,449 in March 2020.  Number of television sets produced in March 2020 declined 34% to 19,790 from 30,788 in the same month last year.

Comparison of Confirmed Cases in Selected Countries. Source: Our World in Data

Coronavirus Infections and Deaths:

As of May 16, Pakistan has 38,755 cases and 834 deaths. These figures are among the lowest in the world. There are many theories explaining why Pakistan and the rest of South Asia have fared much better than America and Europe. To put it in perspective, there were 31 coronavirus related deaths in Pakistan where 4,000 people die on a regular day.  Any major change in daily death rates in recent weeks would not go unnoticed. While it is true that the testing rates in South Asia are low compared to America and Europe, the percentages of people testing positive and fatality rates in South Asia are also low. The explanations offered for low coronavirus infection and death rates in South Asia include more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, younger demographics, universal BCG vaccinations etc.

Comparison of Coronavirus Deaths in Selected Countries. Source: Our World in Data

Pakistan COVID19 Death Rate Among World's Lowest 


Social Distancing Cost-Benefit Analysis:

In a recently published paper tiled "The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and PoorCountries", Yale researchers support universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as a alternatives to social distancing and complete lockdown.

Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University argue that "social distancing policies are estimated to be less effective in poor countries with younger populations less susceptible to COVID-19, and more limited healthcare systems, which were overwhelmed before the pandemic". Here's an excerpt of the Yale paper:

"Poorer people are less willing to make...economic sacrifices. They place relatively greater value on their livelihood concerns compared to contracting COVID-19. Not only are the epidemiological and economic benefits of social distancing much smaller in poorer countries, such policies may exact a heavy toll on the poorest and most vulnerable. Workers in the informal sector lack the resources and social protections to isolate themselves and sacrifice economic opportunities until the virus passes. By limiting their ability to earn a living, social distancing can lead to an increase in hunger, deprivation, and related mortality and morbidity. Rather than a blanket adoption of social distancing measures, we advocate for the exploration of alternative harm-reduction strategies, including universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures."

Summary:

While coronavirus infections and death rates in Pakistan are among the lowest, the nation's economy and livelihoods are in serious jeopardy. With or without coronavirus pandemic, we take risks everyday when we leave our homes to go to work or school, theaters or playground, or shopping. Risks we face range from street crimes and road accidents to lightening strikes. We need to make similar assessments of risks from diseases which vary from place to place. Pakistanis do not necessarily face the same level of risk from coronavirus as people living in America and Europe do. The explanations offered for low coronavirus infection and death rates in South Asia include more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, younger demographics, universal BCG vaccinations etc. There is a need to weigh the risk of catching coronavirus against the loss of livelihoods in places like Pakistan.  Yale researchers have argued in a recently published paper to consider universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as an alternative to complete lockdown.

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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan Supreme Court orders reopening of #shopping malls across country. Ruling comes ahead of #Muslim #EidUlFitr holiday amid #coronavirus. #lockdown #COVID19 http://v.aa.com.tr/1844762

Pakistan’s top court on Monday ordered the reopening of shopping malls across the country, which were closed as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

According to Geo News, a local broadcaster, the order was passed by a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed.

“If the shops are shut down, shopkeepers will die of hunger rather than the coronavirus,” the broadcaster quoted the chief justice as saying.

On May 11, Pakistan relaxed coronavirus restrictions to open small markets and shops across the country ahead of the Muslim Eid ul-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

As per the government decision, all shops and small markets will remain open from 08:00 am to 04:00 pm [local time] for four days a week.

However, the court ruled small markets should also remain open on Saturday and Sunday.

Shopkeepers welcomed the court’s order.

"This is a very good decision and we are thankful to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for feeling our pain," Gohar Ali, a shopkeeper in Islamabad told Anadolu Agency.

According to the Health Ministry, Pakistan has so far reported 42,125 cases, the second worst-hit country in the South Asia after India.

The deaths number in the country rose to 903 as 30 more people lost their lives over the past 24 hours. As many as 11,922 people have successfully recovered and discharged from the hospitals.
Riaz Haq said…
#NewYork State's Governor Andrew Cuomo: 12.2% Of #HealthCare Workers in #NewYorkCity Have #Coronavirus Infection, Lower Than 19.9% Of General Population in #NewYorkCity! The #facemask does work!! #COVID19 https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-05-13/police-health-care-corrections-workers-have-lower-rate-of-coronavirus-infection-than-general-new-york-population


NEW YORK — ESSENTIAL workers, including law enforcement officers, health care workers and transit operators across New York state have lower infection rates of the coronavirus than the general population.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that 14.2% of downstate transit workers, 12.2% of downstate health care workers and 10.5% of the New York Police Department were infected with COVID-19 based on antibody tests, which test a person's blood for COVID-19 antibodies, indicating that a person was infected and has since recovered.

The only exception to the trend was among members of the New York City Fire Department and emergency medical technicians. Just over 17% of those workers were infected with COVID-19.

Officials reported last month that 19.9% of people in New York City may have had the coronavirus and 12.3% of the general New York state population had it, based on antibody tests.

Across the rest of the state, 3.1% of a sample size of 2,750 state police officers were infected and 7.5% of a sample size of 3,000 members of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

Health officials report more than 338,485 cases of the coronavirus in New York and more than 1.37 million across the country with more than 82,800 deaths. Cuomo reported 166 new deaths in the state on Tuesday, a decrease from 195 the prior day.

Additionally, he said hospitalizations and people requiring a ventilator have both declined. New daily cases rose slightly on Tuesday, but the overall numbers are trending downward.

Cuomo also announced that about 60% of the about 100 children in the state showing symptoms of a COVID-19-related illness tested positive for the coronavirus and 40% tested positive for antibodies. Fourteen percent tested positive for both.

Seventy-one percent of children in the state with the illness were admitted to intensive care units and three have died.
Riaz Haq said…
Shanghai Electric distributes food
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/661986-shanghai-electric-distributes-food

Shanghai Electric Group, the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of power generation and industrial equipment, has been providing regular food supplies to households living in villages located around its coal mining plant and power plant in Thar, a statement said on Thursday.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of millions of people globally, the worst-hit are the underprivileged, who are now also faced with the looming threat of food shortages, it added.

In Pakistan too, this is one of the major causes of concern for the authorities, especially in remote areas of Thar in Sindh.

Sino Sindh Resource (Pvt) Ltd and Shanghai Electric Engineering Consulting Company, with its branch office in Karachi, carried out the third stage of the provision of food supplies to around 800 households in villages located in area where the Thar Block-1 Integrated Coal Mine-Power project is located.


Riaz Haq said…
#Summer weather could help fight #coronavirus spread but won’t halt the pandemic.Any benefit would probably be lost if people mistakenly believe the virus can’t spread in #warm weather and abandon efforts that limit infections, such as #socialdistancing. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/summer-weather-could-help-fight-coronavirus-spread-but-wont-halt-the-pandemic/2020/05/15/70ee90e2-95f6-11ea-9f5e-56d8239bf9ad_story.html

New research has bolstered the hypothesis that summer’s heat, humidity, abundant sunshine and opportunities for people to get outside should combine to inhibit — though certainly not halt — the spread of the coronavirus.

But infectious-disease experts add a cautionary note: Any benefit from summer conditions would probably be lost if people mistakenly believe the virus can’t spread in warm weather and abandon efforts that limit infections, such as social distancing.

“The best way to think about weather is as a secondary factor here,” said Mohammad Jalali, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who has researched how weather affects the spread of viruses.

The effect of weather on the coronavirus has been the subject of extensive research in recent months and is acutely relevant as the Northern Hemisphere edges closer to Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. States and cities are terminating or modifying shutdown orders, and millions of students trying to take classes remotely will soon see their disrupted school year come to an end.

In this transitional moment, many people who have been in quarantine will probably find themselves in places — beaches, pools, parks, recreational sites — that historically have been viewed as benign but now carry some hard-to-calculate risk of viral transmission.

Swimming in a chlorinated pool should be safe if people maintain the six-foot social distancing rule, according to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC encouraged the use of facial coverings but cautioned they should not be worn in the water, because when wet they can make it difficult to breathe.

“There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water,” CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich said in an email.

But people can still transmit the virus through close personal interactions in any conditions, inside or outside, in sun or rain. The global picture reveals that the coronavirus is capable of spreading in any climate. Warm-weather countries, including Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil and Ecuador, are enduring significant viral spread.

“Environmental conditions are just one more element of the equation, and not by far the most relevant. Covid-19 is spreading fiercely around the world, in all kinds of weather conditions,” Tomas Molina, the chief meteorologist at Spain’s Televisi√≥ de Catalunya and a professor at the University of Barcelona, said in an email. Molina examined the course of the outbreak in Barcelona and found a relationship between higher temperatures and lower virus transmission rates.

In recent weeks, numerous research studies, based on laboratory experiments, computer models and sophisticated statistical analyses, have supported the view that the coronavirus will be inhibited by summer weather.
Riaz Haq said…
#Florida has been spared the predicted #coronavirus disaster. One theory holds that in #humid air, the virus-laden particles fall more quickly to the ground. #Sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D, which may be connected with good health/resilience. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/05/how-florida-avoided-coronavirus-disaster.html

According to one popular theory, that might be part of it: Floridians fared better because of the state’s tropical climate. Since COVID-19 emerged, scientists have wondered if the virus will experience seasonal fluctuations, dipping in the summer because it spreads less under hot and humid conditions. Some of the optimism is based on the behavior of flu viruses, which have a familiar seasonality. Similarly, Dr. George Rutherford, the head of the infectious disease and global epidemiology division at the University of California, San Francisco, said that human alpha coronaviruses—the ones that can cause common colds—peak in winter months. But no experts have claimed that the summer will save us.

A number of working papers suggest that the coronavirus does do worse under hot and humid conditions. “SARS-CoV-2 probably does have some temperatures it likes better,” said Dr. Larry Chang of Johns Hopkins Medicine. But, he added, “none of that is 100 percent, slam-dunk definitive.” Lab experiments have shown that the virus spreads more and survives better in cold and dry settings. Even with the flu and common cold, we don’t really understand the mechanisms that cause the viruses to stumble in the summer. But scientists have theories. SARS-CoV-2 is enveloped in a coat that may be broken down under heat or humidity, or under ultraviolet light from the sun, meaning it would no longer have the structure needed to be infectious. This degeneration also happens when it’s exposed to soap or just exists on its own for long enough.

Humidity, some experts have proposed, may also help because the virus is transmitted through droplets when you cough, breathe, or talk. One theory holds that in humid air, the virus-laden particles fall more quickly to the ground. Another theory says that low humidity can affect the respiratory tract’s cilia—microscopic structures that help clear dirt and mucus—thereby making us more susceptible to certain viral infections. Similarly, sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D, which may be connected with good health and resilience.

There’s another factor that generally helps summer slow the spread of disease: human behavior. People spend more time outdoors in the summer and less in enclosed spaces with other people. Children also get out of school in the summer, resolving one of the most reliably common methods the flu virus spreads. (The coronavirus may not follow this trend. We know children can become infected, but we don’t know how much they transmit the virus, so we don’t know how much a return to school will affect the numbers. “With influenza, elementary schools are massive factories,” Rutherford said. “But we have no evidence of that with this virus.”)

“The coronavirus is a very different virus, so we just don’t know yet,” said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford Health Care. He agreed that there was room for hope, but not too much, and he warned that we should be careful to make any assumptions about the virus. “I think a lot of us are reticent to make too broad of predictions because this virus has fooled us so many times,” he added.
Riaz Haq said…
#India’s #migrant workers will neither forget nor forgive the hunger and humiliation at #Modi's hands. Millions of them, some with wives and children, lost their #livelihood overnight because of the #coronavirus #lockdown and for no fault of theirs. https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/indias-migrant-workers-will-neither-forget-nor-forgive-the-hunger-and-humiliation

India lost its soul and moral compass during this Corona crisis. The union government and large sections of the rich and the privileged exposed themselves as uncaring, people with no heart and petty minds. Most rich industrialists did not bother to pay their workers through the first and second phases of the lockdown. Some rubbed salt by announcing that they voluntarily would be taking home 30% less than their annual pay packet of Rupees 15 Crore and more.

When pressure mounted and the Government finally relented and decided to allow special trains to take migrant workers back home, some state governments actually cancelled trains and withdrew requisition for trains. Builders had convinced the Karnataka Chief Minister that construction activities would suffer in the absence of construction workers. It was necessary to detain the workers, the builders’ lobby argued. BJP’s Bangalore South MP Tejaswi Surya described the cancellation of trains as a brilliant move and claimed it would help workers fulfil their dream.


Riaz Haq said…
#LOCKDOWNS have not altered the course of the #coronavirus pandemic but have devastated the global #economy, a study by JP Morgan has claimed. #jobs #livelihoods https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/11687699/lockdowns-difference-coronavirus-destroyed-livelihoods-jp-morgan/

A paper by Marko Kolanovic, a strategist at the investment bank, argued that governments were "spooked" into imposing lockdowns that were "late" or "inefficient".

The study shows the infection rates in numerous countries continuing to fall after lockdown were easedCredit: JP MORGAN
Countries around the world introduced lockdown measures as the number of coronavirus cases grew in the opening months of this year, and have seen infection rates fall significantly since.

Kolanovic claimed that numbers had declined because the virus "likely has its own dynamics" that are "unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures".

He cites as evidence a number of places whose infection rates, or "R" values, have continued to fall despite restrictions being lifted.

Denmark's infection rate has remained stabled following the reopening of schools and shopping centres near the end of last month.

As of May 18, its R value was estimated to be 0.6, compared to 0.7 on May 7.

An R value of one or greater indicates that the spread of the virus through a population is accelerating.

Germany has also eased measures and has seen its R value remain below 1.

The study includes graphs showing numerous other countries that have followed a similar pattern since easing their own lockdowns.

Partial lockdowns as well as social distancing guidelines remain in place in most countries, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Europe could see a second wave of the virus if restrictions are lifted too quickly.

'ECONOMIC DEVASTATION'
Kolanovic also expressed concern about the economic fallout from the lockdowns.

"Unlike rigorous testing of new drugs, lockdowns were administered with little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than Covid-19 itself," he claimed.

"At the same time, millions of livelihoods were being destroyed."

Already the economic impact of the virus has forced governments to pass significant bailout packag
Riaz Haq said…
Doubling time of #coronavirus deaths changes inversely with #transmission rate R0. Increasing trend in number of days for doubling deaths means #Pakistan's #covid19 transmission rate (r-naught) is declining. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/doubling-time-covid-deaths?country=PAK

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1264420938583470080?s=20


Riaz Haq said…
Amid #COVID19, #Pakistan looks to #China for economic boost. Projects like #diamerbhashadam , #Gwadar airport, #western #motorway being finalized as part of #CPEC, ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to #Islamabad. #coronavirus #economy https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/economics/article/3085523/coronavirus-bites-pakistan-looks-china-belt-and-road-economic?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=share_widget&utm_campaign=3085523 via @scmpnews


Projects including a dam, airport and motorway are being finalised in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping
Prime Minister Imran Khan is keen to generate jobs for the country’s workers, 25 million of whom have been rendered jobless during the pandemic

After a two-year slowdown in the execution of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) following the 2018 election of Imran Khan as prime minister, Pakistan officials are finalising proposals for new infrastructure projects worth billions, ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping this year.
According to recent statements by Pakistan’s CPEC Authority, which was established during Khan’s visit to Beijing last October, officials are close to wrapping up the “action plan” for the estimated US$8 billion ML-1 project to rehabilitate Pakistan’s rickety railway network.
It would be the single largest project of the CPEC, the first phase of which saw a collective US$19 billion of Chinese credit and investment poured into energy, motorway and other projects, said Chinese ambassador Yao Jing at a conference last year.

Asim Saeed Bajwa, the retired three-star general appointed as founding chairman of the CPEC Authority, said last month he expected to soon sign an agreement with the China Three Gorges Corp for the US$2.5 billion Kohala hydropower project, which would generate 1,124 megawatts of electricity.
Bajwa announced on May 7 that construction work had begun for a US$230 million airport at Gwadar, the site of a Chinese-developed and operated port on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan last month granted approval for the port to handle Afghanistan transit trade.

Bajwa said work on building a second motorway route through western Pakistan, to improve overland transit connectivity between Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang province, had accelerated. Contractors were recently invited to bid for the second section of motorway connecting the Karakorum Highway to Quetta, the administrative capital of Balochistan province, where Gwadar is located.

Andrew Small, author of the China-Pakistan Axis, said in the lead-up to Xi’s visit – which earlier this year was said to be happening in July – there had been a push from China and Pakistan to put together “a decent new package of projects, and also to ensure that any elements of the phase-one plans that had been stalled were pushed forward”.

The political stakes had been raised since CPEC was dragged into the “informational war” which erupted between Beijing and Washington last year, said Small, a Brussels-based senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a US think tank.
“Given the scrutiny that any visit from Xi would bring, and the need to convey a narrative of progress and success, there would always have been an effort of this sort,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
In #Pakistan, #Women Find Freedom In #COVID19 Quarantine Through #Bikes. Like many places, Pakistan has seen a surge in bike riding during the pandemic. But the face of cyclists is changing in this conservative society as women venture onto the roads. https://www.npr.org/2020/05/24/861630486/in-pakistan-women-find-freedom-in-quarantine-through-bikes?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
Riaz Haq said…
#Coronavirus in #America: People 65+ years account for only 22% of cases but 80% of death. #Covid_19
Riaz Haq said…
#India Faces Another Plague as #LocustsSwarm, adding to #Modi's multiple woes: Rising #coronavirus infections, a #heatwave hitting #Indian capital #NewDelhi, a recent killer #cyclone and 100 million people out of work. #unemployment #recession #Ladakh
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/world/asia/india-locusts-jaipur.html?smid=tw-share

Scientists say it’s the worst attack in 25 years and these locusts are different.

“This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” said K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization.

The locusts were flying in from Iran and Pakistan, blanketing half a dozen states in western and central India. Because most of the crops were recently harvested, the hungry swarms have buzzed into urban areas, eager to devour bushes and trees, carpeting whatever surface they land on.

On Monday, Jaipur, a sprawling city of 4 million and the biggest in the state of Rajasthan, was besieged. A blizzard of bugs flew over concrete buildings and the wealthier neighborhoods, swooping in on trees and plants, crossing graveyards and jewelry markets, attracted to the manicured golf course in the heart of the city.

After he saw what was happening, Mr. Doodi, the groundskeeper, yelled out to the caddies and other key personnel, urging them to make whatever loud noise they could to drive the bugs away. Some grabbed firecrackers. Others steel plates to bang on. Another person ran up to the roof of a maintenance building and started thumping on empty plastic containers, like drums.

Residents clamored to protect themselves and their flora, spilling onto the streets banging plates with spoons and jumping into parked cars to honk horns.

“I got out of my room and came out on my terrace at around 10 a.m. and saw a long shadow on the ground,” recalled Nikhil Misra, a lawyer in Jaipur. “I just stood still. It was something I had never seen in my lifetime.”

“I looked up and saw a cloud, not the cloud that gives you rainfall, but a cloud of locusts, thousands and thousands of them hovering over my head,” he said. “It was a silent attack. It was a strange kind of fear, as if being overtaken by aliens.”

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The Indian government wants to tackle this regionally and has offered to set aside some of its differences with Pakistan to provide the neighboring country with pesticide to spray on its side of the border. India has made the same offer to Iran, which responded positively, Indian officials said.

Indian scientists said that in a single day, a modest locust swarm can travel 200 kilometers and eat as much food as about 35,000 people.
Riaz Haq said…
Amid #COVID19 #lockdown, #Pakistan’s #textile #exports plummet 65% in April 2020 to $404 million from exports of $1,138.35 million in the same month of 2019. #economy #trade https://tribune.com.pk/story/2226611/2-pakistans-textile-exports-plummet-65-april/

Textile enterprises have demanded that the government reopen all the textile industries along with the restoration of the zero-rated sales tax status as textile exports have been severely affected. In April 2020, textile exports declined 65% to $404 million against exports of $1,138.35 million in the same month of the previous year.

“This should set off alarm bells for the official quarters concerned,” remarked All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) Punjab Zone Chairman Adil Bashir.

In the wake of a heavy fall in exports as well as domestic sales of textile products, Bashir demanded the restoration of the zero-rated status for the five major export-oriented sectors in order to give a boost to the textile industry in its endeavours to increase local production and exports, and save millions of jobs.
He urged the government to take serious measures to overcome the liquidity issues of the textile industry.

Sales of all major textile categories plummeted in April, with garments being the most affected. Cumulatively, textile exports dropped 3% year-on-year in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year to $10.82 billion, said JS Research analyst Ahmed Lakhani.

Some improvement is expected in May as shipping delays have been reduced. Moreover, buying countries were also gradually easing the lockdown, which should support demand recovery, he added. In the prevailing situation, it is pertinent to see what special incentives can be offered to the export-oriented sectors. On the other hand, “the risk remains that despite the incentives, a potentially severe second and third wave of Covid-19 can neutralise any impact from the government incentives,” commented the analyst.

The Aptma chairman said the trend of exports in April 2020 was very frightening as Pakistan’s annual shipments to EU countries and the US, exceeding $10 billion, were fraught with risks due to delay and cancellation of export orders after the coronavirus lockdown and liquidation or closure of many retail chains. Pakistan Cloth Merchants Association Secretary-General Arif Ismail urged the Sindh government to allow all textile and allied industries to resume operations and comply with the prescribed SOPs.

The Aptma chairman stressed that the textile industry was the backbone of the country with more than 60% of total exports and the largest employer with widespread employment for professionals, skilled and unskilled workers.

He said the zero-rated regime was introduced in 2005-06 with declared objectives of eliminating cash liquidity issues, wiping out refunds of billions of rupees stuck for long, avoiding unproductive waste of man-hours in chasing tax refunds and eliminating the additional cost borne on the filing and follow-up of refund claims.

Bashir stated that 17% of sales tax was imposed on the textile industry with effect from July 2019 with lofty claims of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of processing refund claims within 72 hours through the newly developed FASTER software system.

FASTER still lacks basic provisions like Section 8B, eight-digit HS code, etc, which hampers the system.

He raised eyebrows over the working of FASTER system and stated that due to inherent weaknesses in the system a large number of taxpayers had not been able to even file Annex-H.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan sees alarming decrease in #COVID19 deaths doubling time, indicating increased transmission rates of #coronavirus in the #SouthAsian country. Time to act to slow infections rate. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/doubling-time-covid-deaths?country=~PAK

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1267184369317187585?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
WHAT DOES OUR SEROPREVALENCE STUDY TELL US?
Dr Wajiha Javed May 24, 2020

https://www.dawn.com/news/1559103/what-does-our-seroprevalence-study-tell-us


So far, a total of 2,174 people, across various industries’ head offices, banks, restaurants and hospitals, have been screened by Getz Pharma, including all of its own workers. The total positive cases were 8.6% in the general population. Most of these were ongoing infections at 7%, and only 1.5% had recovered.
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In the high-risk frontline hospital workers, the seroprevalence of Covid-19 was assessed to be 11% (Getz Pharma plans to test 25,000 doctors and their families free of cost on a rolling basis). Families of positives contacts were also traced and their seroprevalence was found out to be 19%, making our secondary household attack rate at 19%, which is similar to what was found in studies in China, Taiwan and Spain.



Based on the study findings and keeping in view its target age group (18-65 years), the urban setting and a sample revolving around office/factory workers, the following conclusions can be drawn:

The 8% prevalence can be extrapolated to the 1 million registered working population of Karachi, meaning at least 80,000 infected cases in Karachi alone, with 70,000 being currently infected, unaware and spreading infection to those around them. If the assumptions hold true for the rest of Pakistan, of its 61.7 million registered workers, at least 4.9 million could already be exposed and infected.

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The writer is an epidemiologist and head of public health and research at Getz Pharma

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After Karachi's 8% positive covid infection shown by Getz study we have 6% positive Lahore infection proven through random testing of covid

Confirms the hypothesis to a large extent that virus spread in general population in Urban Pakistan adult population is around 5 million !

https://twitter.com/bilalgilani/status/1267410135279943682?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
Riaz Haq: Wajiha: Thank you for responding to my tweet. You said.: "prevelance over 6 weeks of 15%'. Could you please elaborate? How many people were given the serological test? Demographics of those tested in terms of ages, regions, occupations, etc? Was it entirely random? What is the rate of error for the particular test you administered? I think you're something unique for Pakistan. I hope the public health professionals are paying attention to your valuable work.


Wajiha Javed:So data is on a rolling basis. So far it's 7000.but we are continuing to test and enroll. It's not excatly random as it's data from different companies who have employees from different walks of life. It includes banks, schools, restaurants, industries, textiles, factories, media and doctors
The age bracket was 18 to 65 years
All of khi was covered
It was higher among frobltlien workers (docs) and among families of positives. Secondary attack rate was around 19 percent
Riaz Haq said…

Pakistan’s Lockdown Ended a Month Ago. Now Hospital Signs Read ‘Full.’
Medical workers are falling ill in Pakistan at alarming rates as the country registers at least 100,000 new coronavirus cases since the lockdown was lifted.


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/15/world/asia/pakistan-coronavirus-hospitals.html


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On a recent day in the sprawling port city of Karachi, Ali Hussain and his brother shuttled between public hospitals, looking for help and receiving none. Mr. Hussain’s older brother had a severe cough and fever but had been unable to get a coronavirus test for days.

“We cannot afford the private hospitals, they are charging tens of thousands rupees,” said Mr. Hussain, who earned 20,000 rupees per month, about $121, working at a textile mill before the lockdown.

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The World Bank projects that Pakistan’s economy will contract by 0.2 percent next fiscal year. Up to 18 million of the country’s 74 million jobs could be lost, according to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, an independent research firm set up by the government.

More immediately, Pakistan’s struggling health care sector is in deep crisis.

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Pakistanis stricken by the coronavirus are being turned away from hospitals that have simply closed their gates and put up signs reading “full house.” Doctors and nurses are falling ill at alarming rates, and are also coming under physical assault from desperate and angry families.

When Pakistan’s government lifted its lockdown on May 9, it warned that the already impoverished country could no longer withstand the shutdown needed to mitigate the pandemic’s spread. But now left unshackled, the virus is meting out devastation in other ways, and panic is rising.

Before reopening, Pakistan had recorded about 25,000 infections. A month later, the country recorded an additional 100,000 cases — almost certainly an undercount — and the pandemic shows no signs of abating. At least 2,356 people have died of Covid-19, according to official figures released Thursday.

Pakistan is now reporting so many new cases that it is among the World Health Organization’s top 10 countries where the virus is on the rise. The W.H.O. wrote a letter criticizing the government’s efforts on June 7 and recommended that lockdown be reimposed, stating that Pakistan did not meet any of the criteria needed to lift it.
Riaz Haq said…
#Asian Development Bank (#ADB) projects #Pakistan’s #economy to grow at 2% in the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21. It added #India’s #GDP was forecast to contract by 4.0% in fiscal year 2020, ending on March 31, 2021. #COVID19 #Lockdown #ImranKhan #Modi https://tribune.com.pk/story/2245558/2-pakistan-economy-grow-2-next-fiscal-year-adb/

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has projected Pakistan’s economy would regain some pace and grow at 2% in the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21, after contracting by 0.4% in the outgoing fiscal year 2019-20 in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

The ADB said in a regular supplement to its annual flagship economic publication, the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020 that inflation rate in Pakistan would remain at 11% as against the earlier projection of 11.5% in current fiscal year ending on June 30.

“Pakistan’s economy was on the path to recovery before Covid-19, and once the Covid-19 impact subsides, Pakistan will resume its efforts to address macroeconomic imbalances and initiate structural reform, likely holding economic growth to a projected 2.0% in FY2021,” the bank said.

“Inflation rate in Pakistan would remain at 11% as against the earlier projection of 11.5% in current fiscal year,” it said, adding that in next fiscal year, the inflation rate would remain 8% against the earlier projection of 8.3%.

The supplement said that South Asia’s economy, which had been hit hard by Covid-19, was forecast to contract by 3.0% in 2020, compared to 4.1% growth predicted in April. It added India’s was forecast to contract by 4.0% in fiscal year 2020, ending on March 31, 2021, before growing 5.0% in 2021.

The ADB said that the developing Asia overall would barely grow in 2020 as containment measures to address the coronavirus pandemic hampered economic activity and weakened external demand. It forecast growth of 0.1% for the region in 2020 – down from the 2.2% forecast in April.

The growth of 0.1% would be the slowest for the region since 1961. Excluding the newly-industrialised economies of Hong Kong, China; Republic of Korea; Singapore; and Taipei, China, developing Asia is forecast to grow 6.6% in 2021,” the supplement said.


“Economies in Asia and the Pacific will continue to feel the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic this year even as lockdowns are slowly eased and select economic activities restart in a ‘new normal’ scenario,” ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada said in a statement.

“While we see a higher growth outlook for the region in 2021, this is mainly due to weak numbers this year, and this will not be a V-shaped recovery. Governments should undertake policy measures to reduce the negative impact of Covid-19 and ensure that no further waves of outbreaks occur.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #Ehsaas program funding raised from Rs144bn to Rs203bn to soften #COVID19 impact on poor. “It means that almost half of the population of the country will be covered under the program,” says program chief Dr Sania Nishtar- DAWN.COM

https://www.dawn.com/news/1569458

Amid adverse impact of the coronavirus on the poor and people belonging to low-income groups, the government has decided to enhance the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme from Rs144 billion to Rs203bn.

Under the first phase of the programme [of Rs144 billion] 12 million families were provided four-month stipend of Rs12,000. Now with the increase in its funds the programme will facilitate around 17m families.

“It means that almost half of the population of the country will be covered under the programme,” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Safety and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar at a press conference on Thursday.

“The scope of emergency cash programme has been expanded to reach out to around 16.9 million deserving families with the increased budget of Rs203 billion,” she added.

Accompanied by Information Minister Shibli Faraz, the SAPM said initially the programme was launched on April 9 with a budget of Rs144 billion for 12 million beneficiaries.

She, however, said 12.86 million beneficiaries across the country had so far received one-time cash assistance of Rs155.64bn through emergency cash initiative as in addition to Rs144bn over Rs10bn was distributed through other resources, including the Prime Minister Corona Fund.

“The government’s largest social protection programme, Ehsaas, has taken the lead in radically expanding social safety nets to help mitigate effects of Covid-19 within Pakistan,” she added.

Terming the programme a big success of the government, she said the programme was fully transparent, rule and merit based, and apolitical. “Sindh gains the most from this programme which shows its apolitical nature,” she said while giving an indirect reply to the allegation made by the ruling party in Sindh, Pakistan Peoples Party, that the province had been ignored and its people had not benefited from the scheme.

She said as compared to initiatives taken in other countries, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme gained international recognition for disbursing in time cash assistance in a well organised manner and at a larger scale.

Dr Nishtar said digital capabilities developed over the past year as part of the Ehsaas strategy had positively been adopted in making emergency cash payments.

“Requests were sought through an SMS short code service; data analytics enabled eligibility ascertainment, using unique national identification numbers and drawing on the National Socioeconomic Registry and wealth proxies (travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership data and government employment status), and payments are biometrically verified,” she explained the process of payments made under the programme.

The beneficiaries who were eligible but facing problems in withdrawing money owing to faulty biometric identification were being paid out exclusively in the designated bank branches of partner banks.

Similarly, to ease out the payment process for families of deceased beneficiaries, Ehsaas has adopted a procedure under which the families of deceased beneficiaries are required to send out an application in her name (Dr Sania Nishtar) with Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) details of their dead family member along with those of eligible family member straight to Ehsaas offices at Islamabad.

Ms Nishtar said Ehsaas has also launched ‘Ehsaas Emergency Cash — Know Your Status’ Portal to offer an easy window to people registered with Ehsaas Emergency Cash to check their eligibility. “All applicants who have registered themselves through 8171 or Prime Minister’s Labour Portal can now easily check their eligibility status by entering CNIC number on the portal,” she added.
Riaz Haq said…
Coronavirus: Youthful Pakistan appears to avoid worst of pandemic
By Secunder Kermani
BBC News

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53742214

With around 6,000 coronavirus deaths in a population of approximately 230 million people, Pakistan appears to have fared far better than most Western countries. The UK, for example, has recorded more than 41,000 deaths in a population of around 67 million. Cities in neighbouring India, such as Delhi and Mumbai, seem to have been worse affected.

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Testing has been relatively low, and numbers are in fact decreasing. There are certainly many more coronavirus cases than the roughly 290,000 officially recorded, but the recorded drop in infections is substantiated by the fact that the proportion of tests that come back as positive has also been decreasing, as have hospital admissions.

Data obtained by the BBC from officials in the country's two largest cities, Karachi and Lahore, show that there was a significant rise in graveyard burials in June that can't be explained by coronavirus deaths alone.

For example, in Miani Sahib graveyard, the largest in Lahore, in June 2020 there were 1,176 burials this June, compared to 696 in June last year.

Only 48 of the burials this June were of officially recorded coronavirus patients. The rise is likely to be a combination of undetected coronavirus deaths, and patients suffering from other illnesses not getting treatment as hospitals were under such pressure.

Similarly, in Karachi, June 2020 saw significantly more burials than at any other time during the past two years.

However, in both cities burial figures appear to be returning to more normal rates. Even if some of the "excess deaths" are assumed to be the result of coronavirus, by international standards the mortality rate in Pakistan appears to be relatively low, though not quite as low as official data would suggest.

For leading Pakistani epidemiologist Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, the principal reason for this is Pakistan's young population. The average age in Pakistan is 22 years, compared to about 41 in the UK. The vast majority of deaths globally from the coronavirus have been of elderly patients.

Dr Asghar told the BBC that less than 4% of Pakistan's population is aged 65 and above, whereas in more developed countries the proportion is around 20-25%. "That is why we haven't seen that many deaths in Pakistan," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Karachi soup kitchen has been serving hot meals for 20 years. It's been pushed to the limit in #Covid_19. It usually serves about 3,000 people a day, but in June, at the height of the #pandemic in #Pakistan, over 5,000 people showed up every day. #charity
https://www.businessinsider.com/pakistan-soup-kitchen-khana-gar-karachi-2020-8?utmSource=twitter&utmContent=referral&utmTerm=topbar&referrer=twitter


And now, in a country where 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, it has become a lifeline to thousands of struggling families during the pandemic.

At Khana Ghar, which translates to Food House, the day begins with workers rolling out dough to prepare a traditional bread called tandoori roti, which is baked in a clay oven. At lunchtime, the soup kitchen welcomes those who need a meal.

But the food is not totally free — Khana Ghar charges a token amount of 3 rupees per person, according to Parveen Saeed, who started the kitchen, which does not take a profit.

"The only logic behind it is that people are at least buying the food they are eating, so their self-respect remains intact," Saeed said. "When you give free food, people stop working. They think 'I'm getting free food for my family, and now they won't go hungry,' but when they buy it for 3 rupees, they will still work hard, earn the money, and feel like they are legitimately providing for their family."


This year, families have been talking more than ever. Make time to talk about your financial plans. Because the more we talk, the better we plan, protect and retire.

Saeed launched Khana Ghar back in 2002 after she moved to Surjani Town, a low-income neighborhood in Karachi.

A journalist by profession, she started to feed the poor after a tragic incident shook her world — a story of a local mother who killed her two children who she had been unable to feed.

"I asked her, why did you kill them?" Saeed said. "And she said one sentence: 'If your kids were hungry, you would kill them too.' That sentence can change your life, and it certainly changed mine."


"It takes me 30 minutes to get here. I walk here. I don't even have shoes, but thank God this place is here," Yameen said. "They take good care of me."

On a good day, Yameen earns 50 rupees, or 30 cents, selling plastic chairs.

But he has six children and is the only breadwinner in the family. He told us that his wife recently died from complications of COVID-19.

"I called the doctor, I called the ambulance, but my wife died in my arms," he said. "I am telling you the truth that I've really suffered."


Even death is costly these days, Yameen added, saying you need around 50,000 rupees to afford a proper funeral and burial.

Even during this trying time, Yameen says he can always count on a hot meal at Khana Ghar.

But the kitchen is being pushed to it limits. It usually serves about 3,000 people a day, but in June, at the height of the pandemic in Pakistan, over 5,000 people showed up every day.


"People said you're putting your life in danger, but we took all the precautions," she said. "We wore masks, gloves, sanitized, sprayed, and maintained social distance."

But she said that despite the challenges the soup kitchen did not stop serving food. "Poor people were telling us we will not die of the coronavirus, but what will eventually kill us is hunger," Saeed said.

With nearly 6,000 deaths in a population of 230 million people, experts say Pakistan has been spared the worst. The lockdown has mostly been lifted, and life is slowly going back to normal.

But hunger still persists. And although Parveen says that she's trying to do her best to help, it's not always enough.
Riaz Haq said…
WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 7 September 2020

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---7-september-2020

Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat COVID-19. Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children for polio have been utilized for surveillance, contact tracing and care.

There are many other examples we could give, including Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Viet Nam and more.

Many of these countries have done well because they learned lessons from previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, measles, polio, Ebola, flu and other diseases.

That’s why it’s vital that we all learn the lessons this pandemic is teaching us.

Although Germany’s response was strong, it is also learning lessons.

I welcome the announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend that her government will invest 4 billion euros by 2026 to strengthen Germany’s public health system.

I call on all countries to invest in public health, and especially in primary health care, and follow Germany’s example.

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