Survey Finds Vast Majority in Pakistan Satisfied With Imran Khan's Handling of Coronavirus Crisis

An overwhelming 81% majority of Pakistanis are satisfied with Federal Government performance in responding to coronavirus pandemic, way up from 61% who expressed satisfaction in March, according to a recent Gallup Pakistan survey. These numbers reflect Pakistan's much flatter disease curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has also launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners. Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.


Bilal Gilani of Gallup Pakistan tweeted his reaction to the poll result in the following words: "These are very unusual numbers ! But not without parallels from around the world. Crisis brings good in govt and ppls expectations set changes!"

The unprecedented crisis has indeed brought out the best in Prime Minister Imran Khan's government. After some initial criticism about the slow response to the pandemic back in March, the government in Islamabad has acted quickly to deal with it. Here are some of the key actions by Prime Minister Imran Khan in March and April:

1. Nation-wide lockdown ordered to slow the spread of the disease in Pakistan. The lockdown was started by the Sindh government where the cases began to spike after the return of hundreds of Pakistani Shia pilgrims from Iran, a known COVID hotspot.  The lockdown has resulted in flattening the curve of the disease and reduced load on the developing nation's weak healthcare system.

Gallup Pakistan Coronavirus Survey
2. Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an $8 billion economic stimulus package, including funds for low-income families to be disbursed through $75 grants.
Comparison of COVID19 Cases in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

3. All international flights into and out of the country were stopped and all passengers  who arrived before the ban went into effect were checked and those with symptoms quarantined.  This action stranded thousands of foreigners in Pakistan and several thousand Pakistanis overseas. Some flights have since been allowed to help those stranded.

4. All passenger train service was halted in Pakistan. Pakistan Railways operates 142 trains daily on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year. Coronavirus fears had already reduced ridership.



COVID19 Deaths in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

5. The launch of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program at the end of March to hand out Rs. 12,000 each to 12 million families (an estimated 67 million people) whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic or its aftermath. This came after Prime Minister Imran Khan told reporters that  “we don’t want to try and save people from corona but they end up dying due to hunger and poverty".

6. Prime Minister Imran Khan granted exemption from lockdown to a few select activities, the area of forestry among them. These exemptions are subject to safe practices described in Stabdard Operating Procedures (SOPs) described by the government. Many workers idled by the coronavirus lockdown have been hired to plant millions trees as part of the Prime Minister's "10 Billion Tree Tsunami" program to deal with climate change. This is being described as "Green Stimulus".

7. Ramping up of tests and availability of  personal protection equipment (PPE), including masks and protective suits for the healthcare workers. Critics in Pakistan argue that more needs to be done to dramatically increase testing and reduce PPE shortages. This criticism is no different from that seen in other countries, including highly developed nations the United States and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, the results show that Pakistan's actions have slowed down the spread of disease caused by coronavirus in the country. The effect can be seen in Pakistan's much flatter curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners.  Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.  It is these results that have produced overwhelming approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Let's hope the government in Pakistan will handle the aftermath of the crisis even better.

Here's a World Economic Forum video of Pakistan's tree-planting campaign during the pandemic:

https://youtu.be/1iwT30Vd88E




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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#UK #Coronavirus #mortality data shows Black people 4 times, #Indian men 1.4 times, #Bangladeshi and #Pakistani males 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males. #SouthAsia #Caribbean https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/07/black-people-four-times-more-likely-to-die-from-covid-19-ons-finds?CMP=share_btn_tw

Black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, according to stark official figures exposing a dramatic divergence in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales.

The Office of National Statistics found that the difference in the virus’s impact was caused not only by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements.

It discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males, after other pre-existing factors had been accounted for, and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.

The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people.

“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS said.

Guardian research last month confirmed suspicions that minority groups faced the greatest risk from the coronavirus and showed that areas with high ethnic minority populations in England and Wales tended to have higher mortality rates in the pandemic.

Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, described the findings as alarming. “We cannot ignore how important racial discrimination and racial inequalities, for example, in housing, are, even among poorer socio-economic groups,” she said. “These factors are important but are not taken into account in most statistical modelling of Covid-19 risk factors.”

While only 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding from 2014 to 2017, 30% of Bangladeshi households, 16% of Pakistani households and 12% of black households experienced this, according to a study of the English Housing Survey.

These groups are more likely to work in frontline roles in the NHS in England: nearly 21% of staff are from ethnic minorities, compared with about 14% of the population of England and Wales. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations have been shown to face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups.

Helen Barnard, the acting director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the findings were “a stark reminder that although we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat”.


May 7, 2020 at 10:47 AM
Riaz Haq said…
$900 million in #COVID19 cash payments to protect #Pakistan's poor. Vouchers generated up to $1.50 of indirect market benefits for each $1; and unconditional cash transfer program generated over $2 of indirect market benefits for each $1. #Ehsaas https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/using-cash-payments-protect-poor-pakistan/ via @wef

A cash payment programme will provide financial support to over 80 million people in Pakistan during the coronavirus crisis.
Unconditional cash transfers have been found to be effective and efficient ways to provide humanitarian assistance.
Initial reports indicate that the cash has provided some security to these vulnerable families.
With a population of over 210 million, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. With nearly one third of the population subsisting from daily and piece-rate wages, the COVID-19 response has necessitated an urgent and immediate strategy to protect those living in extreme poverty.

For this reason, at the same time as our government launched its efforts to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it also allocated $900 million to deliver emergency cash to the extremely poor. This programme is administered through Ehsaas, the federal government’s new poverty alleviation programme, in partnership with all the federating units of Pakistan – provinces and territories.

The programme delivers one-time financial assistance to the 12 million families, which given the household size in Pakistan, represents over 80 million people in the country. Each eligible family receives approximately $75, which is enough to provide subsistence nutrition for four months. Within two weeks of launch, the programme has already reached 7 million of the nation’s poorest people, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention in the history of the country.

The system is simple to access and employs a “rule-based” analytic system to determine eligibility. Those individuals and families wishing to benefit from an emergency cash grant were asked to send an SMS with their identity card number to a special call line. This ID number – linked to the National Socioeconomic Database, the National Database Registration Authority, and also used for travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership, government employment status, amongst other things – is used to ascertain poverty and wealth status. Those meeting pre-determined eligibility criteria receive a confirmatory SMS. Payments are conducted through two commercial banks that competed through a tender process in 2019 to service Ehsaas’ biometrically-enabled cash transfer programmes. Both banks have branchless banking retail agents in small shops. The ATM machines used also have a biometric verification system. In the majority of the cases to date, cash has been delivered to the women in the family.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursement presented unprecedented challenges, in terms of its scale, the needed speed of deployment, and the milieu in which disbursement was to happen. The government was in lockdown, markets where retailers operated were closed, and bank staff were meant to work from home.

With lockdowns in effect and physical distancing measures mandatory, there were concerns about the spread of COVID-19, given the fact that people would have to queue for disbursement and use biometric identification (fingerprints on machines). Other concerns included the availability of liquidity, connectivity (as thumb impressions are verified in real-time by banks), cybersecurity, limitations of data-driven messaging (such as authorizing payment to someone who is deceased, if records are not updated), and the potential for overloading helpline numbers.

For the beneficiary there were concerns that they might be victims of crime leaving the point of service with cash. There were also concerns regarding low levels of financial and digital literacy, and that people might need transportation in some cities to reach a payment site, while intercity transport is shut down.

Riaz Haq said…
#COVID19 has hurt India the most among the world’s top 10 economies. #Indian #manufacturing/services sectors saw the sharpest decline among top 10 #economies #India's #PMI for #services was 5.4 last month. Purchasing index below 50 means contraction. #Modi https://qz.com/india/1852968/covid-19-hurt-indian-economy-more-than-us-uk-china-or-italys/

In April 2020, India’s manufacturing and services sectors recorded the sharpest contraction among the world’s top 10 economies.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services, a popular reading released by London-based IHS Markit, stood at 5.4 last month, down from 49.3 in March. A PMI reading below 50 means contraction.

The steep drop in services activity, which accounts for 52% of India’s GDP, is particularly worrying.

“Historical comparisons with GDP data suggest that India’s economy contracted at an annual rate of 15% in April. It is clear that the economic damage of the Covid-19 pandemic has so far been deep and far-reaching in India,” said Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit.

India is under a stringent lockdown to tackle the outbreak. Almost all services, with few exceptions like banking and post, have been curtailed.

The composite PMI Index, which combines services and manufacturing activities, dropped to a record low of 7.2 in April, compared with 50.6 in March.

The survey found record contractions in output, new orders, and a drop in employment in the manufacturing sector. Also, “there was evidence of unprecedented supply-side disruption, with input delivery times lengthening to the greatest extent since data collection began in March 2005,” according to Hayes.
Riaz Haq said…
What is the best way for #Pakistan to reopen its #economy after #coronavirus #lockdown? Which sectors are low-risk? Outdoor activities in #Agriculture & #Construction sectors? #Retail with curbside pickup? Des Pardes with Faraz Dervesh | https://youtu.be/q5PapZgyI0s via @YouTube
Riaz Haq said…
With hunters in #COVID19 #lockdown, there's a boon for migratory birds in #Pakistan. Millions of migratory birds from Siberia coming to #Pakistan and enjoying warm waters. #migratorybirds #coronavirus #wildlife http://v.aa.com.tr/1830526

The abrupt silence caused by restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus may have hit economies hard, leaving people jobless, but it has come as a boon for migratory birds, especially in Pakistan.

With hunters and those dealing engaging in the sale of exotic birds have been forced to stay at home, migratory birds are making hay in Pakistan’s warm waters. To avoid a stinging winter of Siberia, every year millions of birds travel large distances to stay in warm Indian waters.

But on their way back from March-April, while overflying and taking rest in Pakistan they become easy targets of hunters and bird traders.

"Thousands of migratory birds are not only hunted but also caged for sale during this period every year. The ongoing lockdown has helped them return to their homeland safely," said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the technical adviser of the Pakistan-chapter of World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Pakistan has been under lockdown since March and will continue until May 9 as the country has reported 22,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 526 deaths so far, according to data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

"Returning to home was equally risky for the migratory birds. Thousands of them would fall prey to hunters, and poachers during migration, during their repatriation," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

The country’s southern Sindh province, which hosts a majority of migratory birds has reported a significant decrease in hunting compared to the last year.

"The ongoing shutdown has provided relief to the overall wildlife. It has also saved thousands of migratory birds, including endangered species, which otherwise are hunted during the process of back-migration," Javed Mahar the chief conservator of wildlife department told Anadolu Agency.

Every year over one million birds migrate from Siberia covering a grueling distance of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) in search of moderate waters. Although their ultimate destination is in India, they make stopovers at various lakes and water reservoirs in Pakistan, mainly in Sindh province.

A hunting ground for Arab sheikhs

These birds include houbara bustards, cranes, teals, pintails, mallards, geese, spoonbills, waders, and pelicans.

The sprawling deserts of Thar and Cholistan are the favorite hunting grounds for the Arab hunters. Some argue the hunting safaris of wealthy Arab sheikhs create jobs and help improve the local infrastructure.

Climate change and the uncontrolled hunting of several rare species have forced the migratory birds -- also known as guest birds -- to look for other peaceful sites in South Asia in recent years, say environmentalists.

The unchecked exercise has endangered several rare species, mainly the houbara bustard, which is constantly being hunted by Arab royals despite opposition from both environmentalists and locals.

The prolonged lockdown has also halted the illegal wildlife trade in the country, at least for now.

"Almost all the legal and illegal pet markets across the country are closed following the suspension of road, and air links, which has contained the wildlife trafficking," Shabina Faraz, a Karachi-based expert, who frequently writes on environment and wildlife, said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

Even the business of amateur poachers, who would cage birds like house sparrow and parrots, for the roadside sale, has dried up because of restrictions on public movement.

Many in Pakistan buy and set free these caged birds considering it an act of benevolence or to cast away evil.

Fresh lease of life to wildlife

Another species trafficked from Pakistan include freshwater and marine turtles, tortoises, raptors particularly falcons, pangolins, snakes, and other reptiles.

Riaz Haq said…
#Asia’s Lesson for Corralling Coronavirus? ‘Act Fast’. Western #Europe & #US have 75% of 3.7 million #COVID19 cases. #Asia has about a third of the world’s population but just one of every 15 infections. #coronavirus #pandemic https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-asia-risks-from-novel-coronavirus-werent-so-novel-11588781140

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Western Europe and the U.S. represent around three-quarters of the 3.7 million confirmed cases. East Asia, where the virus first emerged, and Southeast Asia—together accounting for about a third of the world’s population—represent just roughly one of every 15 infections, though some Asian nations have tested only a fraction of their populations.

Hong Kong this week cleared 14 days without any local infections, while Taiwan recently hit three weeks without a domestic case. South Korea, one of the hardest-hit countries early on, relaxed social-distancing measures Wednesday, after ending the month of April with fewer new infections than its one-day peak of 909 cases. Thailand and Vietnam have evaded major outbreaks.

Even in Singapore and Japan, where clusters unexpectedly formed last month, the problem hasn’t spiraled out of control or roared across the population, in large part because of rehearsed responses tracking the disease and a voluntary drop in mobility by citizens.

China appears to have contained the coronavirus, with six confirmed infections since Sunday, though its apparent success required more draconian steps, including one of the biggest mass quarantines in human history.


All these places face the risk of further waves of infections, especially as countries relax quarantines and open up to more activity. Some countries in the region, such as Indonesia, still see caseloads climbing.

Many Asian nations share characteristics that experts say may have helped them fare relatively well up to now, including a tendency to react more quickly at the earliest sign of disease danger, with broader popular support for social-control measures.


“Act fast. That’s the biggest lesson,” said Guy Thwaites, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam.

The precise steps taken by Asian nations vary widely. Some relied on lockdowns or contact-tracing tactics involving surveillance that would be unpalatable in some Western nations. Others prioritized testing and quarantines.

But most had centralized contingency plans in place well before the pandemic, and residents who knew the drill, from past encounters with diseases such as bird flu, H1N1 influenza and SARS.

The day Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, criticized for a slow response, declared a nationwide state of emergency on April 16, many residents had already been wearing face masks for weeks. Protests against government restrictions on public behavior, like ones now seen in some U.S. states, have been less common in Asia.

Being close to China may have also provided an unexpected advantage. Given their proximity to the pandemic’s original outbreak, many Asian nations were inclined to move faster to shut down flights from China, limiting some spread. Other countries blocked Asian travelers, reducing the likelihood a citizen contracted the virus elsewhere and then brought it back home.

South Korea’s rapid response was enhanced by lessons from a deadly outbreak five years ago of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, that left it unprepared. When cases snowballed in mid-February, the government was able to unroll a system to produce mass tests, separate the seriously ill from those with mild symptoms and share information that sounded the alarm.

The country’s response relied on citizens like 23-year-old Kim Su-min, who heeded the call to stay indoors in part because she worried her whereabouts would be made public as part of the government’s aggressive contact-tracing program. She stopped meeting friends altogether, largely remaining inside her Seoul home.
Riaz Haq said…
The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Countries
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.04867.pdf

Social distancing is the primary policy prescription for combating the COVID-19 pandemic,
and has been widely adopted in Europe and North America. We estimate the value of disease
avoidance using an epidemiological model that projects the spread of COVID-19 across rich and
poor countries. Social distancing measures that “flatten the curve" of the disease to bring demand within the capacity of healthcare systems are predicted to save many lives in high-income
countries, such that practically any economic cost is worth bearing. These 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. Moreover, social distancing lowers disease risk by limiting people’s economic
opportunities. Poorer people are less willing to make those 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.


----------

The cost of leaving COVID-19 uncontrolled in the United States is
unambiguously large. This is due to higher predicted mortality rates in the United States relative to
other countries and the higher base VSL. In comparison to U.S. losses, the dollar costs of uncontrolled
COVID-19 in large countries such as Pakistan or Nigeria look minuscule. The more relevant question
for any country-specific policy is the total cost of COVID-19 mortality under each scenario relative
to that country’s own GDP.

--------------

Although the value of intervention is more comparable by this metric, without mitigation efforts
COVID-19 still imposes a large welfare cost—above 130% of GDP in rich countries like the United
States and Japan. In contrast, in the unmitigated scenario the losses in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Nigeria, Nepal are about 50-60% of their own annual GDP. T
Riaz Haq said…
Lives not worth saving

By Khurram Husain

https://www.dawn.com/news/1555184


The study in question is called The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor Countries, and it is authored by Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, both highly credentialled and published economists at Yale. It begins by asking whether “shuttering the economy for weeks or months and mass unemployment are reasonable costs to pay?” in return for “flattening the curve” of Covid-19 cases. In order to answer their own question, the authors have to first render both the costs and benefits of a lockdown into a comparable unit. The economic costs are measured in dollars, whereas the health benefits of a lockdown are measured in lives saved. So the question arises: how to compare these two quantities — lives and money — with each other?

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

To do so, the authors deploy a widely used model in the economics literature called the Value of Statistical Life model. What VSL does, quite literally, is tell us the dollar value of human life in different contexts. It was used originally in more limited contexts to help policymakers with complex judgements in cases where a particular policy imposed an economic cost in return for a vague health benefit. One example might be setting air quality standards.

But with the passage of time, the VSL model began to be used in contexts far more complicated and more pressing than any in the past. One example is climate change, where a number of economists from prestigious universities have used the model to argue that the benefits from the mitigation efforts to curb carbon emissions that scientists are calling for are not worth the economic costs that they will impose. Simply put, they argued that the likelihood of climate change turning out to be a catastrophic event was small, and making massive investments in foregone output today to avert an event that was probabilistically miniscule was not worth the cost.

The VSL at stake did not justify the massive investments required to curb greenhouse gas emissions to a two per cent increase by century end. This debate was sparked in 2006 when the Stern Review, put out by the eminent UK economist and public servant Nicholas Stern, argued that such an investment was now a matter of existential importance for mankind to make. Those who opposed him either took issue with his projections of the economic losses that climate change would impose, or invoked the VSL model to argue that the foregone economic output was larger than what was purportedly being saved.

It took 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to cut through the Gordian technicalities into which the ensuing conversation fell. “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she exclaimed in her famous address to the UN in September 2019. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Today, the economists are back, armed with their VSL model, telling us that the dollar value of the lives saved as a result of the lockdown are worth less than the foregone output in developing countries, and they specifically mention Pakistan as one example.

For the US, for example, they say 1.76 million lives will be saved through aggressive interventions, and put the total value of these lives at $7.9 trillion. This easily justifies a $2tr stimulus along with whatever economic losses result from a closure of the economy.

Riaz Haq said…
BASED on the remarks of two key officials at the helm of pandemic control in the country, it appears that the federal government is pursuing an unannounced policy of ‘herd immunity’.

The first indication of this came from SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza, who in an interview with DawnNews earlier this week conceded that “it will be better for the future if coronavirus spreads at a certain level so people can become immune”.



https://www.dawn.com/news/1555939

The second, albeit less categorical, message came from federal minister and NCOC chair Asad Umar during a talk show. Although he said it is not a policy decision, he justified it by saying that the logical conclusion of the pandemic is either a vaccine or a situation where 70pc of the population contracts the virus and achieves herd immunity. That these remarks have come as the government prepares to ease lockdown restrictions — despite the spike in death and infection curves — is extremely troubling.
Riaz Haq said…
Teleschool goes on air today to compensate for academic loss

https://www.dawn.com/news/1548995

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday inaugurated a national broadcast education channel to mitigate the loss faced by the students due to the closure of educational institutions till May 31 in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Teleschool — the dedicated TV channel — will be aired through a beam provided by Pakistan Television (PTV) from Tuesday (today) across the country from 8am to 6pm for online education from class one to 12.

Speaking at its launching ceremony, the prime minister said that teleschool would help students learn during the closure of schools. This initiative would also help the government reach the remote areas, which didn’t have access to education facilities and infrastructure, Mr Khan said.

He said as Pakistan had a large number of out-of-school children (OOSC), this initiative could promote primary education and focus on the OOSC.


He said no one could predict when Covid-19 would be eliminated, as it could take two, three or six months. He said this project was highly productive in the given circumstances.

The PM was of the opinion that this project should continue even after the pandemic was over and reopening of schools. He said it would help promote education in remote areas while the concept could also be used for telemedicine.

He said that adult literacy could also be promoted through this project. He appreciated all those officials who played their role to launch this project.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood at the launch told the premier that education ministry was also mulling to develop an app to benefit over 20 million out-of-school children and promote adult literacy.

About country’s literacy rate, the minister said: “We have just 60 per cent literacy rate”. He said the education ministry was trying to link education with technology so that adults who wanted to learn had access to education through mobile phones.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was also present at the launch of teleschool.

Officials of the education ministry told Dawn that the dedicated TV channel, teleschool, would be available on satellite, terrestrial and cable networks so that it would be accessible to most parts of the country, including hard-to-reach remote areas, ensuring equity in learning. An officer of the education ministry said that the ministry initially inked an agreement with PTV for three months, but if needed it could be extended as the PM also expressed his desire for the project’s continuation.

Joint Secretary (Education) Syed Umair Javed, who had supervised the content development process, told Dawn that online content was developed in accordance with country’s curriculum and it was made attractive for students.

“The credit of making this project possible in less than a month goes to unsung heroes: content developers, teachers and staff of Federal Directorate of Education, editors, techs and producers of Allama Iqbal Open University and PTV,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Countries
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.04867.pdf


The prediction of significantly lower incidence of COVID-19 deaths in poor countries is primarily
based on the younger average age of their population. The model accounts for the fact that poor
countries have fewer hospital beds and lower ICU capacity, and will be entirely unable to meet
peak demand. The lower marginal benefits of implementing suppression policies in poor countries
arises from the fact that by the time suppression is triggered, the model predicts that COVID-19
will have already spread significantly, overwhelming countries with low healthcare capacity. Older
people in low-income countries are also more likely to become infected by COVID-19 as they have
higher contact with other individuals inside and outside the household, but the large demographic
differences between rich and poor countries outweighs this factor.
The model, however, does not presently account for the higher burden of infectious diseases and
chronic illness in low-income countries, particularly in children, basing its estimate of healthcare
demand and overall mortality on data from China. This could lead to an under-estimate of mortality
in low-income countries (Walker et al., 2020). On the other hand, the model presumes equally
effective implementation of mitigation or suppression policies in poor and rich countries. Recent
experience in India with the large and slow exodus of migrant workers from cities following lockdown suggests that suppression policies imperfectly implemented in low-capacity settings may have
counter-productive effects on containing COVID-19.

1.3 Differences in the Economic Value of Interventions in Rich and Poor Countries
The COVID-19 mitigation strategies considered in our model are all based on reducing contact
rates. However, lower contact comes at the cost of reduced economic activity and lower earnings.
We measure the economic value of avoided mortality from mitigation policies in each country using
Viscusi and Masterman (2017)’s country-specific value of statistical life (VSL) estimates. The VSL
is based on how people trade off the risk of harm and economic reward. Individuals face mortality
Riaz Haq said…
PTA, Pakistani mobile operators send more than 1 billion COVID-19 awareness SMS

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/pta-pakistani-mobile-operators-send-more-than-1-billion-covid-19-awareness-sms--1337937


To raise awareness regarding TeleSchool - Pakistan’s first education channel for students (a joint project of Pakistan Television and the Ministry of Education), 93.15 million SMS messages have been sent. To support operations of educational institutions, and call centers, around 120 IPs have been whitelisted since 19 March 2020. PTA has also allocated 14 different short codes and 6 UAN (Toll Free) numbers to Government entities working on controlling the pandemic.

PTA is also supporting donations by mobile users under ‘Prime Minister's COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020'. To increase public awareness about this initiative, nearly 142.08 million SMS messages have been sent to subscribers urging them to donate to this cause. Mobile subscribers can donate PKR 20 per SMS by sending a text message to a special code.

---------------------------

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and mobile operators sent coronavirus awareness SMS to subscribers across Pakistan. According to the PTA, nearly 1.028 billion coronavirus awareness messages have been sent since 19 March in Urdu, English and regional languages to mobile users across Pakistan.
Awareness SMSs in Urdu and English have also been sent to persons who may have come into contact with coronavirus patients while travelling. More than 0.58 million cautionary messages have so far been sent to travelers and suspected persons since 19 March. Coronavirus awareness ring back tones have been activated on 79.4 percent (131.7 million) of total subscribers’ mobile devices, the PTA also said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan's #Pharmaceutical Firm Ferozsons partners with #Gilead Sciences to manufacture for domestic use and export #Remdesivir to treat #COVIDー19 in . #coronavirus https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/05/11/ferozsons-partners-with-gilead-to-manufacture-covid-19-drug-remdesivir/ via @Profitpk

The Ferozsons Laboratories Limited has announced that its subsidiary Biosciences Limited (BFBL) is in negotiations to enter into a non-exclusive license agreement with Gilead Sciences, Inc for the manufacture and sale of remdesivir to supply Pakistan and 126 other countries under Gilead’s Global Patient Solutions Programme serving the developing world, informed the company in a statement to the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Monday.

There is no obligation at this time for any party to execute any transaction, the statement added.

“Remdesivir has been granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 disease. The optimal duration of treatment is still being studied in ongoing clinical trials. Under the EUA, both 5-day and 10-day treatment durations are suggested, based on the severity of disease.

If an agreement is executed by Gilead and BFBL, once production starts, the company believes it will have sufficient quantities over time to serve the needs of the patients in Pakistan. However, at the moment, the management is uncertain as to the timelines for first launch as an agreement remains to be executed, and thereafter local regulatory approvals and sourcing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for manufacturing remdesivir may take some time.

The BFBL management is actively taking up the matter with the relevant stakeholders so that remdesivir is made available to patients in Pakistan on an urgent basis”, the statement added.
Riaz Haq said…
#Lockdown-Free #Sweden Had It Right, Says World Health Organization. Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based. #WHO #ProtectTheVulnerable #HerdImmunity #COVID19 #coronavirus https://www.aier.org/article/lockdown-free-sweden-had-it-right-says-world-health-organization-interview-with-prof-johan-giesecke/ from @aier

The world has watched in amazement as Sweden eschewed draconian lockdowns and instead trusted its citizens to manage this virus for themselves. Now the head of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization, epidemiologist Michael J. Ryan, M.D., has praised the approach: Sweden “relied on the relationship with the citizens, and on the citizens’ ability and willingness to implement physical distancing and self-regulation… I believe that if we are to reach a new normal situation, Sweden can in many ways represent a model for the future.”

----

Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based, elaborating on how the Swedes have done things differently and how they could have done even better.

Q: There’s been a lot of confused thinking and a lot of confusion about what the correct response to a threat such as COVID-19 and should be – and I just wanted to begin by getting your, kind of summary, thoughts of – of you know, how Sweden is differing from other countries and why you think that is.

A: The main reason is that we, or the Swedish government, decided early in January that the measures we should take against the pandemic should be evidence-based. And when you start looking around for the measures that are being taken now by different countries you find that very few of them have the shred of evidence base. But one we know, that’s known for a hundred and fifty years or more, and that is washing your hands is good for you and good for others when you’re in an epidemic. But the rest – like border closures, school closures, social distancing – there’s almost no science behind most of these.

Q: So what is the current policy in Sweden? Social distancing is part of the policy, isn’t it? What is the regime that Sweden has gone with?

A: The main difference to other countries is that there is no – you’re not locked up in your home. If you go out to buy food, or groceries, or drugs – I mean medicines – there’s no police to stop you in the street and ask you what you’re doing here. That’s one thing. People are asked to stay inside, but there is no reinforcement or enforcement of that. People do it anyway. So that’s one. We have the rule that the crowd cannot be bigger than 50 people.

Q: So I can still have an event for 49 people? (Although I won’t.)

A: Yes, you could. The schools – the upper schools are closed; secondary education and universities closed; schools up to age 15, 16 schools are open. What more do we have? Don’t – the nursing homes, or houses for old people, are closed to visitors.

Q: So it sounds like it’s a moderate social distancing regime then, at the moment?

A: Yes, it is. Sorry it’s very similar to the one that the UK had before there was a famous paper in – by – the Imperial College, by the modelers who made models for infectious diseases that came out on the day after you made a u-turn in England.

Q: Yes, tell us the original strategy in the UK and became known as a kind of herd immunity strategy, that’s what it was called. Before we get on to talk about the Imperial model – which I would like to talk about – is it correct to call it herd immunity and, and is that the Swedish strategy?

A: It’s not a strategy, but it’s a by-product of the strategy. But the strategy is to protect the old and the frail; try to minimize their risk of becoming infected, and taking care of them if they get infected. If you do that – the way we’re doing it – you would probably get herd immunity and then – but that’s a byproduct order, it’s not the main reason to do it.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan: #COVID19 drug production to start "within weeks," says CEO of Ferozsons Ltd, which will produce the drug. Pakistan will be among the first 3 countries in the world to produce #remdesevir for domestic use & export to 127 nations. #pharmaceutical https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/05/15/world/asia/15reuters-health-coronavirus-pakistan-remdesivir.html?smid=tw-share

Pakistan will soon start production of the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in treating the novel coronavirus, the country's top health official and a pharmaceutical company's chief executive announced on Friday.

Production should start "within weeks," said Osman Khalid Waheed, the chief executive of Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd, which will produce the drug. He spoke at a news conference alongside Pakistan's de facto health minister, Zafar Mirza.

"Pakistan will be among the first three countries in the world where it will not only be produced but will also be exported to the whole world," Mirza said. It will be exported to 127 countries, he said.

Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has grabbed attention as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 300,000 people.


To expand its access, Gilead said it signed non-exclusive licensing pacts https://in.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-gilead-sciences/gilead-ties-up-with-generic-drugmakers-for-covid-19-drug-supply-idINKBN22O2HJ with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

"It is a commitment by us and Gilead that this medicine could be produced at minimum cost and make it most accessible," Waheed said.

Pakistan has recorded 37,218 COVID-19 cases and 803 deaths. Lockdowns to curb the disease's spread are forecast to will cause the country's economy to shrink 1% to 1.5% in 2020.

Despite a rising rate of infection, Pakistan began lifting those lockdowns last week, primarily to avert an economic meltdown.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan central bank cuts interest rates to 8% as #coronavirus fallout hits #economy."Easier monetary policy ... can provide liquidity support to households and businesses to help them through the ensuing temporary phase of economic disruption"| NASDAQ https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/pakistan-central-bank-cuts-interest-rates-to-8-as-coronavirus-fallout-hits-economy-2020-05

Pakistan's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate on Friday by 100 basis points to 8%, the fourth time it has cut rates since the coronavirus pandemic hit two months ago.

"Easier monetary policy ... can provide liquidity support to households and businesses to help them through the ensuing temporary phase of economic disruption," the State Bank said, adding the likelihood of surging inflation expected earlier in the year had also reduced.

The bank has cut rates by a total of 525 basis points since the beginning of the health crisis two months ago and has announced a package of measures to support poorer workers hit by the pandemic as well as offering risk sharing with private banks on concessional lending to boost liquidity.

Before the crisis hit, the bank had held rates at an elevated level of 13.25% for months as it sought to reign in inflation which rose to more than 14% in January. Falling oil prices now make inflation less of a concern.


"As a result, inflation could fall closer to the lower end of the previously announced ranges of 11-12 percent this fiscal year and 7-9 percent next fiscal year."

The decision comes around a fortnight before Pakistan announces its annual budget, aimed at finding ways to generate revenue and cut expenditures.

Due to a shortfall in revenue, re-prioritising of expenditure and increase in public spending, the post-pandemic fiscal deficit could reach as high as 9.4%, against an earlier projection of 7.4%, according to finance ministry documents seen by Reuters.


Pakistan began a phased lifting of its countrywide lockdown last week despite a rising rate of cases – a move pushed primarily by fears of an economic meltdown. The country has reported more than 38,000 COVID-19 cases and 821 deaths.

"Easing lockdowns...should help provide support to economic activity. Nevertheless, as elsewhere, the situation remains highly uncertain," the State Bank said. "A possible rise in infections could prompt fresh lockdowns, and the recovery could prove more sluggish than is currently being anticipated."

(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan and Charlotte Greenfield Editing by Andrew Heavens and Peter Graff)
Riaz Haq said…
Cash-strapped #India's stimulus unlikely to soften #coronavirus blow. Actual spending announced by #Modi is only about a tenth of the package. It is not enough of a boost to prevent a likely 5% contraction in #GDP. Business leaders are unimpressed by it http://www.ecoti.in/7bZLob16

India's $266 billion economic rescue package rests mostly on boosting company credit but contains scant new public spending, tax breaks or cash support to revive demand and prevent firms from collapsing, business leaders and economists say.

Businesses from airlines to small stores are reeling from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nearly two-month lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people aimed at limiting the spread of the new coronavirus. Many firms say they won't survive unless they are b ..
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #MigrantCrisis: The ugly face of #Indian #MiddleClass. #Modi and the States act like #migrants are sub-human. They are accorded no dignity and treated with contempt as die walking long distances to their villages. https://www.hindustantimes.com/more-lifestyle/the-taste-with-vir-the-ugly-face-of-middle-india/story-cWwOBQ4ILXkjQ6L9WHNHEL.html

Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times, Delhi

As of this writing, I have no clue when the lockdown will finally end. The economy is in trouble. The government’s estimates of when we would flatten the Covid curve have been shattered --- we should have turned things around by the middle of May—but the number of infections keeps rising.

And yet, we are not doing so badly. Our mortality rate is low compared to many advanced countries. All governments (States and Centre) have done their best and we must remember that we are much better off than say the UK or the US.

My learnings from the Pandemic have not been about the disease (scientists are still figuring out how Covid functions) but about us as a people. Here are some of them.

Migrants: Does the urban middle class realise how much cities depend on migrants from the villages of India? I don’t think many of us had any idea till the exodus began in the early days of the lockdown.

Clearly the Centre had no clue how much of an issue migrant labour would become. Nobody announces a complete lockdown with just four hours notice, if the migrant issue has been factored in before taking the decision. So did the government not know? Or did it just not care?

Even when we finally came to terms with the dimension of the migrant tragedy, too few of us showed any empathy. The sight of migrants walking home, on the road for hundreds of miles, each with his or her possessions in one little bag should have left a nation heartbroken.

Instead the horrors piled up. The returning migrants were lathi charged. They were told they could not go home. They were denied transport. They were rounded up like cattle and sprayed with poisonous bleach.Dead bodies of migrants were piled on blocks of ice in open trucks . When the ice melted, the corpses rotted.

Even now, the Centre and the States act like migrants are sub-human. They are accorded no dignity and treated with contempt. Some people say that this is because migrants are not in their villages at election time and are not registered voters in the cities where they work.

No idea if this true. But it would explain a lot.

Domestic Help: The ugly side of the urban middle class is the one that domestic staff see. We are happy making domestic help work in our homes but at the slightest sign of adversity, we say “they are just servants” and treat them like dirt.

I have lost count of the number of colonies and housing societies that refused to let servants in on the grounds that they were poor, so they must be dirty, so they must be carriers of Covid. Many of their employers promptly turned their backs on them and refused to pay their salaries.

RWAs: The villains of the piece, at least when it came to domestic staff and other matters, were the Residents Welfare Associations. These are bodies that often do good work (my RWA has done some commendable things) but which, all too often, fall into the hands of little Hitlers.

Most of us are too busy earning a living to take much interest in RWA elections but these can sometimes rival Lok Sabha elections in their ferocity and viciousness. Nearly always, the winners are people with nothing else to do who treat their colonies as empires and run them like mini-Neros.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan to get $188 million from #WorldBank for disaster resilience, #ecosystem restoration. To restore at least 30% of degraded forest, 5% of degraded cropland, 6% of degraded grassland (rangeland) and 10% of degraded wetlands by 2030. #ClimateCrisis https://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/547626-Pakistan,-World-Bank-to-sign-US$-188-mln-disaster-resilience,-ecosystem-#.XtVY3XGWdqA.twitter


The first component has been further divided in the four sub-components, namely, Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building, Modernization of the Observation Infrastructure; Data Management, and Forecasting Systems; Enhancing the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s (PMD) Service Delivery and Building Partnerships with the Private Sector; and the last is the Project Management, Systems Integration and Monitoring and Implementation Support of PMD.

The second component ‘Disaster Risk Management’ has been divided into three sub-components, namely: Legal Policy and Institutional Strengthening; Infrastructure for Resilience and the Project Management, Monitoring, and Implementation Support of NDMA, he added.

The climate change official remarked that Pakistan has gained credible and proven experience by undertaking a much wider eco-system restoration Initiative by successfully implementing a world-acclaimed five-year Billion Tree Tsunami project in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and now through the implementation of the upscale initiative ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme’ as a part of the present government’s green and clean Pakistan political manifesto and which aims to restore Pakistan’s green cover and protect wildlife, their habitats and conserve biodiversity ecosystems and rapidly depleting natural resources such as land and water.

However, the new ambitious project ‘Pakistan Hydromet and Ecosystem Restoration Services’ to be implemented from this year in partnership with the World Bank and various government entities is actually a plan of actions, which builds on evidence and experience of the eco-system restoration gained as a part of the UN Decade for Eco-System Restoration (2020-2030) programme.

Besides, the project is set to act as an effective vehicle to manage risks of environmental degradation and climate change while simultaneously driving economic growth, livelihoods and poverty eradication, Saleem said.

Elucidating upon foremost objectives of the project, the climate change official said facilitating transition towards environmentally resilient Pakistan by main streaming adaptation and mitigation through afforestation, biodiversity conservation, enabling and enhancing policy environment consistent with the objectives outlined in Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) also called national carbon reduction roadmap.

It would also help enhance resilience within and across forestry, agriculture, oceans and food systems, including through biodiversity conservation, leveraging supply chains and technology.

Attaining Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by restoring at least 30% of degraded forest, 5% of degraded cropland, 6% of degraded grassland (rangeland) and 10% of degraded wetlands in Pakistan by 2030 are among the key objectives of the World Bank-funded US$ 188 million project.

Highlighting the importance of the project in terms of boosting country’s climate resilience and ecosystem restoration by stemming biodiversity loss, the climate change media focal person Muhammad Saleem highlighted that Pakistan was ranked among top-ten country by the Germanwatch Climate Risk Index 2019 because of negative socio-economic impacts of climate change-caused disasters and its climate-vulnerability.

“Thus, investing in climate resilience initiatives for protecting socio-economic sectors, particularly water, energy and agriculture from fallouts of the climate change is vital for mitigating the country’s overall climate-vulnerability and protecting lives and livelihoods of the people,” he emphasised.

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