China reports just one new domestic virus infection

coronavirus china

China reported just one new domestic case of the coronavirus on Wednesday but a dozen more imported infections.

For the second consecutive day there was only one more fresh infection in Wuhan, the central city where the virus first emerged late last year, the National Health Commission said.

New cases in surrounding Hubei province have now been in the single digits for the past seven days, down from a peak of several thousand per day in early February.

Wuhan and its 11 million people were placed under strict quarantine on January 23, with the rest of Hubei entering lockdown in the following days.

But there has been an easing of restrictions in some parts of the province in recent days, with China saying it has “basically curbed” the spread of the virus.

A number of smaller cities are now allowing healthy people to leave the province to return to work or their hometowns elsewhere.

But imported cases are a rising concern for China, with 12 more reported Wednesday, bringing the total number to 155 and fuelling fears of an influx.

An average of 20,000 people are flying into China every day, according to the government, and 10 Chinese provinces and cities are imposing mandatory quarantines on those arriving from abroad.

Beijing is requiring almost all international arrivals go into a 14-day quarantine at designated hotels in the capital.

Five of the new imported cases reported Wednesday were in southern Guangdong — China’s most populous province, which announced quarantines on Monday. Beijing and Shanghai each had three, and there was one elsewhere.

China also reported 11 deaths Wednesday, raising its toll from the virus to 3,237, and total infections on the mainland reached 80,894

REALITIES BEHIND THE MASS GRAVES IN BALOCHISTAN

To collect funding and revenue, so called “baloch” insurgents, hostile agencies and human trafficking smugglers are responsible for mass graves in Balochistan. The deceased are not the baloch but job seeking youngsters from all over Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistani men at the No Borders camp at the port of Mytilene, Lesbos island, on April 7, 2016. They are on high alert since the local mayor insisted that they abandon the camp and go to Moria, a closed camp where migrants live in prison-like conditions. This week Greece began deporting migrants, the vast majority Pakistani, to Turkey. — Jodi Hilton
Thousands of illegal migrants, including Pakistanis, take the risky land route through Balochistan to reach the West.

In reference to the article, published on 14th march 2020 against the Mass Graves in Balochistan. It was a disbelief that baloch insurgents and protesters were being massacred based on their ethnicity or beliefs. Instead, the whole story was manipulated in order to show the world that the Government of Pakistan has turned their back upon baloch people and their basic rights are being usurped.

Originally, people try to reach European countries by illegally crossing the border. In this regard, Balochistan being a bordering province with Iran and Afghanistan offers two established and well-known routes used by the human smugglers for their shabby business. These are the lands and sea routes via gulf and Europe countries. The people who were nomads and just wanted to go across the border and for that they paid enough amount but their poor fate. They were smuggled, looted and later murdered brutally.

However, baloch insurgents are also funded by the adversaries across the borders that are in reality against Pakistan and these are those people who don’t want to see Pakistan in peaceful and stable situation. Traditional enemy of Pakistan and Neighboring India is the most prominent country amongst these mal-intention countries. India interferes into Pakistan’s internal affairs by using Afghanistan’s soil. The malicious intents of hostile agencies mainly from India have been working in Balochistan under different NGOs and welfare projects to subvert the people of Balochistan.

Pakistani defense forces and agencies are brilliantly countering these agenda of adversaries and its agents including their local pimps and criminal bodies. Indian involvement in sabotaging peace in Pakistan was confirmed when RAW’s Kalbushan Yadev (a serving Commander of Indian Navy) with 15 other agents was caught from Balochistan. Earlier, he revealed that he had been giving training to Baloch armed groups in a bid to attack Pakistani ports and to split Balochistan. It was a proof that India sponsors terrorism in Balochistan. Last year, two more Indian agents identified in Balochistan who entered from Iran for sabotage and terrorism. Pakistan has repeatedly found and shared the evidence with major powers including UN about Indian criminal activities in Balochistan.

India always forced violence over peace with Pakistan. They always had evil intention and never agreed for any sort of negotiations. Even though Pakistan took several initiatives to resolve the conflict with dialogues and sort the matter out. We can see the recent example where the captured pilot was freed in order to promote peace gesture.

CPEC is a global game changer, strengthening Pakistan’s economy with the help of China. All the efforts were being made by hostile intelligence agencies to destabilize this project but they failed. However, some other countries have also joined these hostile elements to deteriorate the situation in Balochistan for hindering the completion of this project. After badly failing on the ground these hostile are now doing propaganda against Pakistan by fabricating the realities. The world should be more concern about Indian sponsored terrorism and killings in Balochistan.

Taylor Swift asks fans to stop partying while coronavirus sweeps the world

Pop sensation Taylor Swift is joining the list of celebrities who are using their platform to raise awareness about the novel coronavirus and tell of those downplaying the disease.

Turning to her Instagram Story, the 30-year-old Lover crooner laid emphasis on social distancing and self-isolation as the toll of confirmed cases around the globe escalates at a rapid pace.

“Guys, I follow you online and I love you guys so much and need to express my concern that things aren’t being taken seriously enough right now,” she said.

“I’m seeing lots of get togethers and hangs and parties still happening,” she added.

“This is the time to cancel plans, actually truly isolate as much as you can, and don’t assume that because you don’t feel sick that you aren’t possibly passing something on to someone elderly or vulnerable to this,” she continued.

“It’s a really scary time but we need to make social sacrifices right now.”

The global pandemic has affected over 169,943 people worldwide and has taken the life of over 6,523. 

Modi’s Covid-19 diplomacy

Indian Premier Narendra Modi.
PHOTO: REUTERS

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sprang a surprise on Friday when he called for a video conference of the leadership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) to evolve a common strategy against the novel coronavirus that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). All member countries including Pakistan responded positively to the offer. The only difference, though, was that Prime Minister Imran Khan instead of attending the conference himself deputed the country’s de facto health minister, Dr Zafar Mirza. Modi’s initiative was a departure from his policy where he had tried to ignore Saarc in order to isolate Pakistan in the region. Over the past few years, Modi worked hard to set up other regional groupings that excluded Pakistan.

Set up in 1985, Saarc was the first regional organisation in South Asia. The purpose was to seek regional economic integration among the member countries. However, the organisation never took off or achieved its desired goals because of the acrimonious relationship between Pakistan and India. It was in 2014 when the last Saarc summit was held in Nepal. The next summit was to take place in Islamabad in November 2016, but had to be cancelled after India refused to attend. Since then the organisation was literally dysfunctional as no efforts were made to organise the summit, although Islamabad said India was the obstacle.

In this backdrop, questions need to be asked as to why Modi suddenly realised the importance of Saarc, which India long considered a dead organisation. The apparent reason of course is the coronavirus but his initiative appears to have other objectives.

India’s global image in recent months has been hit by Modi’s divisive policies at home. The recent pogrom in Delhi where right wing Hindus carried out a massacre of Muslims has even prompted Indian friends to criticise the Modi government. The international press has repeatedly warned that the Modi government may be following the template of Adolf Hitler, who carried out the genocide against Jews.

Not just anti-Muslim policies, the muscular approach by Modi to suppress the Kashmiri freedom struggle is another area where India has come under severe criticism from the Western media and even its own allies. The abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special status to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region has alienated those Kashmiri politicians who had sworn allegiance to India. Despite the brute use of force and draconian measures to suppress dissent, the situation in the scenic valley is far from Indian control. Although, India will never admit publicly, Modi’s anti-Muslim policies and mishandling of the Kashmir situation has certainly backfired. The Indian policy of seeking Pakistan’s isolation has not made any headway either.

Given all this, it seems there is a rethink in India’s approach towards Pakistan. By signalling to work on the Saarc platform, Modi wants to send a message that India is willing to mend ties with Pakistan. In fact, India in recent weeks, through the United States and other common friends, conveyed its willingness to reengage with Pakistan. Islamabad, however, turned down New Delhi’s offer.

The reason Pakistan was not keen to have any rapprochement stemmed from the fact that any engagement with India at this stage would be tantamount to endorsing its action in Kashmir. Also, Pakistan feels that given the current challenges Modi is facing at home because of the recent Delhi riots and continued unrest in Kashmir, the policy of engagement would only help Modi deflect both domestic and international pressure.

Pakistan is mindful of these tactics and unlikely to take the bait at a time when it has the ‘strategic space’ to take full advantage of Modi’s follies.

NBA shut down, fans shut out as coronavirus hits US sport

LOG ANGELES: Sport across the United States and Canada was gripped by coronavirus fears on Wednesday, with the NBA suspending its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID-19.

The NBA´s move followed a dramatic last-minute postponement of Utah´s scheduled game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, league officials taking action after deliberating during the day how best to proceed in the face of the outbreak.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight´s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The move came days after the Indian Wells tennis tournament in California became the first high-profile casualty of the crisis. Mounting concern over the possible spread of COVID-19 also prompted Canadian authorities to cancel the World Figure Skating Championships, which were due to take place in Montreal from March 16-22.

The decision came after escalating anxiety about the potential for unchecked transmission of the virus amongst fans attending sporting events. Shortly after the NBA´s decision, the NHL said it would update the status of its season on Thursday.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA´s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus,” the NHL said in a statement. “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update (Thursday).”

Pending league-wide action, the NHL´s San Jose Sharks said they would play the three home games remaining this month without fans after a ban on mass gatherings in Santa Clara County in California.

The Santa Clara County edict also forced the postponement of a March 21 Major League Soccer game between the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City.

The NHL´s Columbus Blue Jackets said they would host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday behind closed doors after an order banning mass gatherings in Ohio, set to be the first major professional sports event to be played in an empty arena.

The San Francisco Giants baseball team said a planned pre-season game against the Oakland Athletics on March 24 would be rescheduled.

In Washington state, authorities announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties until at least the end of March, including the area which covers Seattle.

‘More aggressive position’

“It is clear that our state needs a more vigorous and more comprehensive and more aggressive position if we are going to slow the spread of this epidemic,” Washington governor Jay Inslee said.

The MLS´s Seattle Sounders later said a game against FC Dallas on March 21 had been postponed. The Seattle Mariners baseball said they would seek to reschedule the club´s opening home games of the 2020 season, which had been set for late March.

Meanwhile, the wildly popular climax to the US college basketball season — “March Madness” — will be played in virtually fan-free arenas after the NCAA said only relatives and essential personnel would be allowed at games.

“I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men´s and women´s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) president Mark Emmert said.

The NCAA took the unprecedented move after consulting public health officials. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Congressional panel in that the agency believed any large gatherings of people represented a risk of COVID-19 spreading.

“We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience, as the NBA plays, so be it,” Fauci said. “Anything that has large crowd is something that would give the risk to spread.” Johns Hopkins University´s coronavirus tracker put the number of known US cases at around 1,300, with 36 dead. 

Two US, one British personnel killed in Iraq rocket attack: officials

Iraq rocket attack

WASHINGTON: One British and two American personnel were killed and about a dozen people were wounded when 18 small rockets hit Iraq’s Taji military camp north of Baghdad on Wednesday, US officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The officials, who cautioned the death toll may rise given the severity of some of the injuries, said it was too soon to assign blame. Any indication that Iran-backed militia were responsible could spark a new round of confrontation between the United States and Iran.

The US-led military coalition in Iraq said in a statement that 18 107 mm Katyusha rockets struck the base and suggested they may have been fired from a truck.

It confirmed three personnel were killed and about a dozen wounded but declined to disclose the nationalities of the casualties or offer any other identifying information.

“The attack is under investigation by the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces,” the US-led coalition said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a statement condemning the attack and added that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had spoken with Pompeo.

“We will continue to liaise with our international partners to fully understand the details of this abhorrent attack,” Johnson said, without confirming British casualties.

Pakistan is top travel destination for 2020 as security improves

Hunza is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

The US based magazine, Count Nast Traveler ranks Pakistan as the number one travel destination in 2020, recognizing improvements in security and visa relaxation, and of course its beauty.

“The adventure traveler’s must-visit goes from strength to strength,” said the world’s leading travel magazine while highlighting Pakistan’s scenic and mesmerizing tourist attractions.

Pakistan has lot attractions for locals and foreigners alike. Recently, there is a laudable improvement in the tourism industry. Enhanced security conditions are perhaps the key reason for ever-increasing numbers of tourists.

American travel vlogger Alyne Tamir aka Dear Alyne is attempting to break stereotypes about Pakistan with her travel blog. 

International travel bloggers and vloggers also visited the country and demonstrated the true nature of Pakistan and the generosity of its people.

PM Imran Khan Receives Prince William & Kate Middleton At PM House.

The latest factor facilitating this matter was the royal visit of the Duke and the Duchess. They also visited Gilgit-Baltistan region which is considered the most preferred tourist attraction in the state. Annually, more than a couple of million tourists visit the north of the country. High-level royal visits i.e prince William and Kate Middelton contributed to this trend.

The revival of Pakistan’s sports is also helping to eliminate security risks. International sports events are now happening in Pakistan, in what come as a proof of improved security situation in the country. Famed international cricketers, footballers, wrestlers, skiers as well as squash and kabaddi players are also participating in mega events being organized in Pakistan.

Fans gather in stadium to support their PSL team.

International cricket has come back to Pakistan. Pakistan is holding the first ever 5th Pakistan Super League 2020, with all the cricket matches are playing across Pakistani venues particularly, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi. Pakistan is about to become an epicenter of international sporting events in near future.

Ski event featuring international players.

Pakistan has also hosted key international events viz, CNS International Squash Championship, Malam Jabba International Alpine Ski Cup, CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup.

Pakistan won Kabaddi world cup final 2020 against India.

On the same day, Feb 09, 2020, Pakistan resumed a fully jam-packed stands at Kabbadi World Cup 2020 which was held in Lahore. The scale of festivity and interest it has attracted from audience, sponsors and international teams and government speaks volumes of a change at the doorsteps.

Kumara Sangakkara Press Conference on MCC Cricket in Lahore.

The prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has also toured Pakistan on a week-long tour from February 13, 2020 is completing a tour in Lahore. The MCC was visited under the leadership of former Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakara.

The revival of international sports in the country can be used as an example to quote for the purpose of promoting tourism in the country and attracting.

CPEC – A journey to prosperity

In addition to all this, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is another opportunity Pakistan in order to increase tourism. Under CPEC, numerous infrastructure and power projects are being developed in the country, which will offer more facilities to travelers.

Tourism and hotel industry are growing in Pakistan.

Similarly, the growing hotel industry in Pakistan has created confidence in the tourism industry. International hotel chains are expanding their services, and entrepreneurs are introducing innovative ways to serve their guests.

For all these reasons, some of the world’s most famous magazines and societies encourage people who have the strongest imagination to visit Pakistan. Forbes sees Pakistan as “one of the best places to go” in 2019. In 2017, the British Backpackers Society was named “one of the friendliest countries in the world with mountainous scenery” and ranked first among Pakistan’s best adventure travel destinations.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennysouthan/2018/03/21/the-worlds-friendliest-countries-revealed/#5e5090a654ea

Peace has been restored and the local and foreign tourists are coming in large numbers to visit the scenic places and heritage sites. Thanks to LEAs in particular, we have been able to see foreign sportsmen in action on our soil.

US begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

US troops withdrawal Afghanistan

KABUL: The US military said on Monday that it had begun its troop pullout according to the peace deal signed with the Taliban in Qatar.

“US Forces Afghanistan has begun its conditions-based reduction of forces to 8,600 over 135 days,” spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett said in a statement.

The current level is more than 12,000.

According to the agreement signed in Qatar, all foreign troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months, in return for various security commitments from the Taliban and a pledge to hold the talks with Kabul.

The intra-Afghan talks were due to begin on Tuesday but Ghani s government has not released any details of the negotiating team and it is unclear when they may start.

Abdullah said Monday that he would send a separate group to talk to the Taliban.

“One of the first priorities of our government would be to create political consensus, and appoint a negotiating team,” he said.

During Monday s speech, Ghani appeared to reach out to his opponents, saying: “Today is the day for unity. We have to think about the future.”

“I call on… (past) political rivals to lend me a hand and a shoulder to serve this country. Our mission is peace and ending the 40 years of war,” he added.

Violence has continued unabated, except for during a week-long partial truce ahead of the US-Taliban deal.

In the deadliest attack to hit Afghanistan in weeks, IS gunmen shot dead 32 people and wounded dozens of others at a political rally in Kabul on Friday.

The Taliban, who called the electoral process “a fake and foreign-run” affair, have also ramped up attacks on Afghan forces and civilians.

The insurgents  spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the competing ceremonies showed that “nothing is more important to the slaves than their personal interests”.

Experts say the infighting is likely to cost the government, which is already under pressure after being shut out of the Doha negotiations for the US-Taliban deal.

Italy wakes up to deserted streets in coronavirus lockdown

coronavirus

ROME: Italy woke up on to deserted streets in an unprecedented lockdown on Tuesday after the government extended quarantine measures across the entire country in a bid to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

The measures, announced late on Monday by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, widen steps already taken in the rich northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighbouring provinces, clamping down on movement and closing public spaces.

“The future of Italy is in our hands. Let us all do our part, by giving up something for our collective good,” Conte said in a tweet, encouraging people to take personal responsibility.

For at least the next three weeks, people have been told to move around only for reasons of work, for health needs or emergencies or else stay at home. Anyone travelling will have to fill in a document declaring their reasons and carry it with them.

Large gatherings and outdoor events, including sports, have been banned, while bars and restaurants will have to close from 6 p.m. Schools and universities will remain closed until April 3.

“The whole of Italy is closed now,” was the headline in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

As day broke, the streets of Rome were erily much quieter than normal, with cars circulating freely under a clear blue sky in the normally traffic-clogged centre, reflecting the atmosphere in the financial capital Milan, already under stricter controls.

Rome commuters could easily find seats in the usually jam-packed underground system during the morning rush hours.

People wearing masks in the streets of the capital was more widespread than before.

Shortly after the measures were announced, shoppers in Rome rushed to late-night supermarkets to stock up on food and basic necessities, promoting the government to declare that supplies would be guaranteed and urging people not to panic buy.

Shops are allowed to remain open as long as customers maintain a minimum distance of a metre between them.

The measures came after the latest data showed the coronavirus outbreak continuing to rise, with 9,172 positive cases recorded as of Monday and 463 deaths, the second-highest level in the world after China.

The World Health Organization has praised Italy’s “aggressive” response to the crisis, since the first cases emerged near Milan almost three weeks ago but the economic cost has been huge.

On Monday, the Milan stock exchange dropped over 11% and Italy’s borrowing costs shot up, reviving fears that an economy already on the brink of recession and struggling under the euro zone’s second-heaviest debt pile could be plunged into crisis.

Conte has already promised “massive shock therapy” to help deal with the immediate economic impact of the crisis and on Tuesday, Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli said the government would approve measures worth around 10 billion euros.

Asian markets collapse as virus spreads, oil prices crash

Equities in Tokyo have plunged almost six percent as Asian markets are hammered by virus fears and a crash in oil prices. — AFP

Equity markets collapsed on Monday as the rapidly spreading coronavirus fans fears over the global economy, while a crash in oil prices added to the panic with energy firms taking a hammering.

As the deadly disease claims more lives around the world, dealers are fleeing out of riskier assets and into safe havens, sending gold and the yen surging and pushing US Treasury yields to new record lows.

While governments and central banks have unleashed or prepared to roll out stimulus measures, the spread of COVID-19 is putting a huge strain on economies and stoking concerns of a worldwide recession.

Trading floors were a sea of red, with Tokyo, Sydney and Manila plunging around six percent, while Hong Kong shed 3.5 percent by lunch.

Mumbai, Singapore, Seoul, Jakarta and Wellington were more than three percent down, Shanghai and Taipei shed at least two percent and Bangkok gave up five percent. The losses tracked sharp falls in Europe and Wall Street on Friday.

Driving the declines was a ferocious sell-off in the oil markets, sparked by top exporter Saudi Arabia slashing prices — in some cases to unprecedented levels — after a bust-up with Russia over production.

Both main oil contracts — which had already been under pressure over falling demand caused by the virus — dived around 30 percent, marking the worst drop since the 1991 Gulf War and the second biggest fall on record, according to Bloomberg News.

Saudi Arabia launched an all-out oil war Sunday with the biggest cut in its prices in the past 20 years, Bloomberg News reported, after Opec and its allies failed to clinch a deal to reduce output.

A meeting of main producers was expected to agree to deeper cuts to counter the impact of the coronavirus — but Moscow refused to tighten supply.

In response, Riyadh slashed its price for April delivery by $4-$6 a barrel to Asia and $7 to the United States.

Russia’s decision not to comply had already battered prices and there are warnings that prices could continue to drive lower if the two sides do not reach an agreement.

“It’s unbelievable, the market was overwhelmed by a wave of selling at the open,” said Andy Lipow, at energy consultancy Lipow Oil Associates.

“Opec+ has clearly surprised the market by engaging in a price war to gain market share.”

Energy firms hammered

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said: “Saudi Arabia seems intent on punishing Russia.

“Oil prices […] will likely be capped over the next few months as coronavirus stalls economic growth, and Saudi Arabia opens the pumps and offers huge discounts on its crude grades.”

Energy firms were slammed, with Hong Kong-listed CNOOC tumbling 16 percent and PetroChina down 10 percent, while in Tokyo, Inpex dived 13 percent and Woodside Petroleum in Sydney fell 17 percent.

“Plummeting oil prices and spreading coronavirus are fanning fears of downside risks to the global economy,” said Takuya Kanda, at Gaitame.com Research Institute.

Foreign exchange markets were also extremely volatile, with traders snapping up the yen — seen as a hedge against global instability — and selling off the dollar owing to uncertainty over the coronavirus in the United States.

Marito Ueda, senior trader at FX Prime, told AFP: “Fears over the virus’s impact on the global economy and a plummet in US yields had investors seeking the safe-haven yen.”

“It is essentially a flight from the dollar,” he added.

The greenback fell below 103 yen, levels not seen since the third quarter of 2016.

Analysts warned of further gyrations as the outbreak shows no sign of abating, with more than 100,000 people infected in 99 countries.

Italy, which is now the hardest hit country outside China, has put a quarter of its population in lockdown, while sporting and public events around the world have been cancelled.

“You just don’t know which way things are going to go, it makes it very hard to price anything right now,” said Sarah Hunter, chief economist for BIS Oxford Economics, on Bloomberg TV.

“We’re seeing that in the market with the wild oscillations that are coming through.”