CNN's Fareed Zakaria Never Misses Any Opportunity to Disparage Pakistan

Interviewing Bill Gates on global fight against COVID19, CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria said on Sunday August 9 that Pakistan "has done almost nothing as far as I can tell, you know, infections are not going crazy, death rates are not going crazy, there may be some underreporting". Needless to say, Zakaria's claim is debunked by "Government Response Stringency Index" and Google Mobility Reports which Bill Gates  is clearly aware of.  So he ignored Zakaria's claim and responded as follows:"Pakistan had a pretty bad peak in Karachi but those numbers have come down and now they look like Europe. India is still sadly in growth phase as is South America...in Africa South Africa is top...in the rest of Africa we've been funding a lot of testing because it's a bit opaque..what goes on in the lungs..you are more exposed to indoor and outdoor particulates even at younger ages you can get disease compared to let's say a rich country"

CNN GPS Anchor Fareed Zakaria

Data on Pakistan's Response to COVID19: 

Is Fareed Zakaria right? Has Pakistan really done nothing to fight COVID19 pandemic? Let's answer this question.

The first answer can be found in the video flashes from Pakistan that were playing as Fareed Zakaria was disparaging Pakistan's efforts to control the spread pf coronavirus. The video shows people wearing masks on the streets in Pakistan. It also shows a worker spraying disinfectant. Another scene shows worshippers wearing masks while sitting apart from each other in a mosque. Does Fareed Zakaria think "nothing" of what is visible on the screen in his show? Did he ask his producer what was being transmitted to the audience as he spoke?

COVID19: Government Response Stringency Index. Source: Our World in...

The second and more data-centric answer can be seen in the "Government Response Stringency Index" that tracks various restrictions imposed by governments to control the spread of coronavirus. The Index tracks restrictions including school closures, workplace closures, and travel bans, scaled from 0 to 100 where 100 is the strictest response. It's based on data from Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker.  The tracker shows that  Pakistan government response was nearly as stringent as India's and more stringent than that of the United Kingdom.

Another indicator of restrictions comes from Google Mobility Index which also confirms dramatic effect of lockdown imposed by federal and provincial governments in Pakistan. It shows that mobility was down as much as 65% during the lockdown when compared with the period just prior to the lockdown.

CNN GPS Screenshot

Health Chief Dr. Zafar Mirza's Interview: 

What has improved the COVID19 situation in Pakistan? Is it just Pakistan's good fortune? Why is it so different from the situation in neighboring India where the infections are rising?  Is it the result of a series of deliberate interventions by Pakistan's government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan? What are the key factors contributing to falling coronavirus transmission rate in the country? Here are some  of Pakistan's Health Chief Dr. Zafar Mirza's answers to these questions that came to light in a recent interview with Pakistani journalist Bilal Lakhani:

1. There were 50 different interventions with 2300 smart lockdowns covering 47 million people based on data driven evidence of disease spread.

2.  Significant change in people's behavior with large percentage wearing masks and taking other precautions to prevent transmission.

3. A fall in positivity from over 22% to below 10%, and excluding Sindh, near 5% for the country.

4. Significant decline in hospitalizations and fewer patients in critical care.

5. The government staying the course while ignoring the mass hysteria for total nationwide lockdown like India's stirred up in the media came mainly from the well-fed rich and the upper middle class. The voices of the ordinary people and daily wage earners were not part of public discourse reported by the media.

Zakaria's Views on Terrorism: 

Fareed Zakaria has often talked of what he labels "Islamic Terrorism", a label that both Presidents Barack Obama and Geoge W. Bush shunned. Both ex presidents rejected associating terrorism with any religion. But not Fareed Zakaria who has essentially toed the Indian line of calling it "Islamic Terrorism" and labeled Pakistan as "epicenter of Islamic Terrorism".

Far from being objective, Zakaria is in fact a cheerleader for India, the country of his birth. In his book "The Post-American World", he describes India as a "powerful package" and claims India has been "peaceful, stable, and prosperous".

Summary:

CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria has shown yet again that he is incapable of being objective when it comes to discussing anything related to Pakistan. He claims that Pakistan "has done almost nothing" in fighting COVID19 pandemic, a claim that is debunked by "Government Response Stringency Index" and Google Mobility Reports. In fact, the video flashes from Pakistan that were playing as Fareed Zakaria was disparaging Pakistan's efforts to control the spread pf coronavirus show people wearing masks on the streets in Pakistan. They also shows a worker spraying disinfectant. Another scene shows worshippers wearing masks while sitting apart from each other in a mosque.  Fareed Zakaria's bias against Pakistan is ridiculously obvious to any objective observer who has even the slightest knowledge of the country.

Here's a video clip from CNN GPS Show:

https://youtu.be/KpAMVLwBJkM

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 25, 2020 at 7:21pm

How Did Pakistan Flatten the Coronavirus Curve?
Despite ending its lockdown early, Pakistan managed to flatten the curve. But the country is still far from achieving herd immunity.

https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/how-did-pakistan-flatten-the-corona...

The government reopened the economy in phases and in doing so achieved the impossible by flattening the curve. But, as the saying goes, things are not always what they seem.

A seroprevalence study, conducted in July by the Health Services Academy (HSA) in collaboration with multiple partners including the Agha Khan University Hospital and World Health Organization, estimated 11 percent of Pakistanis have developed COVID-19 antibodies while 89 percent remain at risk.

“It means that every 10th Pakistani has developed antibodies in their blood against the SARS-Cov-2 virus,” reads the study. People between the age of 20 to 60, current smokers, urban residents, and those who have had contact with a known COVID-19 positive person were found more prone to be exposed to the virus.

“There is a very large number out there that needs to be protected from the virus,” said National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) chief Asad Umar.

Epidemiologist Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar interprets the findings to be in line with global studies suggesting 11 to 20 percent of the population in most countries have been exposed to the virus.

“The 11 percent could also represent the most vulnerable of the population and the remaining may not be susceptible to the virus,” he added, while expressing doubts over the seroprevalence study’s accuracy.

The Mystery of the Flattened Curve

The scientist-recommended strategy to contain the spread has been lockdowns, testing, and contact tracing. But it is nearly impossible to get a developing country where two-thirds of the population relies on daily wages to stay at home.

“There is a universal acknowledgment that the virus’ spread can be slowed down through behavioral change in the society,” said Umar. “It can be voluntary with the masses informed of the risk and how to save themselves or it can be administratively enforced. We chose to do both.”

He explained Pakistan’s strategy: “Media played an important role in creating awareness, which was backed by our testing, contact tracing, and quarantine program. We managed to increase testing capacity in a very short period and applied a sophisticated tracking system that ran through the ground to apex level.

“At one point, we had over 10,000 contract workers and more than 3,000 contact tracing teams. It became an integral part of our strategy coupled with smart lockdowns in high-risk areas and hotspots and SOP compliance. Those in violation were fined or sealed.”

Despite the SOPs (standard operating procedures) and smart lockdowns, a walk through Karachi’s streets on a midsummer’s evening in mid-July showed business as usual.

“For the first three months, we saw a significant change in behavior. People wore masks and maintained social distancing. Once the cases slowed down, we saw less adherence to the SOPs,” said Umar.

This was followed by Eid-ul Adha celebrations, which also fueled local tourism with thousands driving to the mountains during the holidays. The curve, however, continued on a downward trajectory.

Asghar, the epidemiologist, said he had found the high cases tally and death toll projections for Pakistan incredulous. “Outbreaks don’t behave in such a way,” he explained. “If there is an outbreak in a city, it doesn’t mean every person living in the city will get infected.”

The worst-hit countries have an average age of 35-45 with a high mortality rate in the geriatric population due to the virus’ spread in old-age homes. In contrast, Pakistan has a young population and a social construct that vetoes elderly placements in group homes.

It is not astounding, then, that the study found seropositivity more common in young adults and significantly less in children and older adults. It was also more prevalent in urban areas than rural.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 25, 2020 at 8:41pm

#Pakistan #Mobile #broadband subscriptions grow to 82.76 million. Remote #work, #education, #ecommerce in #COVID19 #lockdown driving growth. Universal Service Fund investing to expand access in underserved area to reduce #DigitalDivide| The Express Tribune https://tribune.com.pk//story/2261272/remote-work-online-education-...

With remote working and online education becoming a norm since the imposition of Covid-19-induced lockdown in March 2020, there has been a surge in 4G consumption whereas 3G demand has continued to decline.

According to latest statistics released by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the number of overall mobile phone subscribers grew from 167.27 million in June 2020 to 168.04 million by the end of July 2020.

Similarly, the number of mobile broadband (3G and 4G) subscribers expanded from 81.14 million to 82.76 million in the same period, registering an increase of 1.62 million.

In terms of 4G market share, Jazz has the largest customer base of 19.98 million, followed by Zong at 18.13 million, Telenor 11.58 million and Ufone 4.22 million.

Public and economic policy analyst Hasaan Khawar believes the generational shift to mobile broadband networks will gain further momentum with improved coverage of higher-speed networks, rationalised tax regime for cellphone use and execution of schemes under the Digital Pakistan initiative.

At present, a significant number of mobile phone users in Pakistan have basic, voice-only devices because of high taxes including customs duty, sales tax and other levies, putting higher-end handsets beyond the reach of many citizens.

The biggest barrier to the provision of internet connectivity to the lower-income segments of society remains the affordability of smartphones.

Sharing his perspective of industry trends in Pakistan, Jazz CCO Asif Aziz told The Express Tribune that growing data demand from customers was leading to faster adoption of 4G compared to its predecessor 3G.

In partnership with the Universal Service Fund, created by the government to extend telecom services to the un-served and underserved areas, he revealed that Jazz was initiating projects to provide high-speed internet to the underserved areas. Lately, a contract has been awarded for providing internet connections to over two million citizens residing in Ghotki, Sukkur and Khairpur districts.

Talking about the challenges his company faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, Aziz disclosed that Jazz suffered a 7.9% decline in revenue in the last quarter of FY20 as compared to the corresponding period of FY19, mainly due to lockdowns, currency headwinds and the impact of tax changes.

“Excluding the tax changes, the revenue would have increased by 0.5% year-on-year despite the challenges posed by the pandemic during the quarter,” he emphasised.

Responding to a question, the company official said Jazz was working towards a digitally progressive and inclusive Pakistan by improving digital infrastructure, enhancing connectivity, investing in digital skills and literacy, providing mobile financial services to the unbanked population, and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

According to a GSMA report published recently, Pakistan’s telecom operators invested $5.3 billion between 2010 and 2018, but average capital expenditure (capex) as a proportion of revenue was below 23%. In other middle-income countries, the ratio was comparatively higher as Uzbekistan had a ratio of 36%, Iran 31% and Sri Lanka 27%.

The report suggests if Pakistan wants to forge ahead and build the digital momentum, appropriate policy decisions are needed, especially with regard to spectrum pricing to embolden operator investment and ensure the country does not fall behind regional leaders in rolling out next-generation networks.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 28, 2020 at 4:24pm

This week, #India saw the highest one-day world record of more than 77,000 since the #COVIDー19 #pandemic began. Model predicts India will shortly overtake #Brazil, putting it 2nd to the #UnitedStates in total cases. It could soon overtake the #US in cases https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-coronavirus...


India is recording around 1,000 deaths a day from the coronavirus, roughly the same as the United States and Brazil, and given the rising number of cases, that toll appears likely to continue or increase. In terms of deaths per million people, India has fared far better than the United States, Brazil and Italy, but not as well as neighboring countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

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

It took more than five months for India to reach the bleak milestone of 1 million cases of the novel coronavirus.

The next million came in just 21 days. The third million was faster still: 16 days.

The increase in cases is unlikely to ebb anytime soon, experts say, as a galloping outbreak spreads to new parts of the country and political leaders continue to reopen the economy. This week, India recorded the highest one-day jump in new cases — more than 77,000 — anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who developed a model to predict India’s outbreak, said the country will shortly overtake Brazil, putting it second to the United States in total cases.

“The only question is whether India is going to catch up with the United States,” she said.

The virus has now spread throughout the world’s second-most-populous country, reaching even isolated Indigenous tribes in a far-flung Indian territory. The pandemic has also crippled economic activity — experts believe the economy contracted by 20 percent in the three months to June — with only anemic signs of recovery.

Yet there is little alarm and even less outrage. The coronavirus often slips off the front pages, and national health officials conduct briefings only once a week. Overall approval ratings for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain sky-high, although a quarter of those polled in the same recent survey said the handling of the pandemic was his biggest failure.

Government officials regularly highlight India’s comparatively low rate of deaths as a percentage of cases to indicate their efforts are working. Testing has increased dramatically but remains far below many other countries on a per capita basis. Some find reassurance in India’s overall fatality figure of about 62,000, which is lower than in Brazil and the United States at similar points in their respective outbreaks.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 10, 2020 at 7:32am

Pakistan has used the infrastructure it developed in its fight against polio to tackle COVID-19, said the Director-General. Community health workers, previously used to vaccinate children for polio, have been redeployed for contact tracing and monitoring.


https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/5-countries-we-can-all-learn...

7 countries (Pakistan, Italy, Thailand, Mongolia, Mauritius and Uruguay) to learn from

The Director-General highlighted 7 countries, amongst many, whose preparation and response offer lessons for the rest of the world.

Thailand

Thailand has benefited from 40 years of health system strengthening, he explained.

A well-resourced medical and public health system is supported by strong leadership. Coupled with 1 million village health volunteers, and strong communication, the nation has built trust and compliance and confidence among the general population, he said.

Italy

Italy was one of the first countries to experience a large outbreak outside of China, said Dr Tedros. It "took hard decisions based on the evidence and persisted with them". Unity and solidarity, along with the dedication of health workers, helped bring the outbreak under control, he explained.

Mongolia

Mongolia also reacted quickly. It activated its State Emergency Committee in January and didn't report a case until January and still has no reported deaths.

Mauritius

Mauritius used previous experience with contact-tracing and a swift response to overcome high-risk issues - high population density, high rate of non-communicable diseases and lots of international travellers.

Uruguay

Uruguay has one of Latin America's most 'robust and resilient' health systems in Latin America, explained Dr Tedros. Sustainable investments in public health were built on political consensus, he added.

Pakistan

Pakistan has used the infrastructure it developed in its fight against polio to tackle COVID-19, said the Director-General. Community health workers, previously used to vaccinate children for polio, have been redeployed for contact tracing and monitoring.


And more...

There are many other countries who've done well, added Dr Tedros. From Japan to New Zealand and Viet Nam, many countries have fared better because of lessons learned during previous outbreaks of disease, such as SARS or Ebola.

Having learned the lessons of previous pandemics, it's therefore "vital that we learn the lessons this pandemic is teaching us," he concluded.


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


Dr Tedros called on countries to invest in public health, as a "foundation of social, economic and political stability".

Significant progress has been made in medicine, he said, but too many countries have neglected their public health systems:

"Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to invest in public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future."

But there are countries the rest of the world can learn from, he said in his opening remarks. Here's a summary of what he said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2021 at 6:30pm

Up to 1m #Hindus gather in #India as festival goes ahead amid #COVID19 fears. Millions more are expected to descend on Haridwar in the coming weeks for #KumbhMela2021, one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings. #Muslim #Hajj was canceled in 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/14/hindus-gather-india-k...

Many religious gatherings across the world have been cancelled or scaled back because of Covid. Only a few thousand Muslims took part in last year’s hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, compared with more than 2 million in normal years.

The pope celebrated midnight mass on Christmas Eve with fewer than 100 participants instead of the usual 10,000. In nearly all countries, Christians, Muslims, Jews and those of other faiths have curtailed or cancelled events marking religious festivals in the past 10 months.

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

Most of those walking into the freezing river on Thursday morning were not wearing masks and social distancing was hard to maintain. Senthil Avoodai K Raj, a senior police official, said thousands of security forces were present and fines could be imposed for breaching Covid regulations.


India has recorded more than 10m Covid cases – the second highest number in the world after the US – and has recorded more than 150,000 deaths.

On Saturday, the government will launch a vaccination drive, aiming to inoculate 300 million people by early August. Healthcare and frontline workers will be vaccinated first, followed by people over 50 and those with underlying health conditions.

Some pilgrims in Haridwar dismissed the threat from the virus. “India is not like Europe … when it comes to immunity we are better,” said 50-year-old Sanjay Sharma. “It’s really sad to see people not gathering at Kumbh in the same numbers as they would earlier … The greatest truth on Earth is death. What’s the point of living with fear?”

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