World leaders offer help, support to Lebanon in wake of Beirut explosion

August 5, 2020


Paris, Aug 5: French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said France will deploy a civil security detachment and several tonnes of medical equipment to Lebanon, whose capital was hit by an explosion that left over 70 people dead and thousands injured.

"Emergency doctors will also reach Beirut as soon as possible to strengthen hospitals. France is already engaged," the French President said in a tweet.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also extended his deepest condolences to all those affected by the "massive explosion at the port of Beirut."

"We are closely monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this tragedy. Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis. 

We understand that the Government of Lebanon continues to investigate its cause and look forward to the outcome of those efforts," he said in a statement.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country is ready to provide support in any way it can.

"The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected," Johnson said.

Israeli people share the pain of their Lebanese neighbours after a devastating blast in the port of Beirut and reach out to offer their aid, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday.

"We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time," Rivlin said on Twitter.

Over 70 people have been killed while thousands of others were wounded in the massive explosion on Tuesday in Beirut which shattered buildings and caused widespread damage.


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September 30,2020


Islamabad, Sept 30: Pakistan on Wednesday opened all the educational institutions which remained shut for nearly six months due to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 3 lakh people in the country.

Both private and public schools were opened under strict restriction and were told by the authorities to follow the standard operating procedures to contain the spread of the contagious coronavirus.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said that the maximum number of students were enrolled in the primary schools and they suffered most due to the closure of the institutions.

He said a decision was taken to open all the educational institutions after analysing the coronavirus situation comprehensively.

“Only 1 per cent infection was detected in educational institutions after the authorities performed 1,71,436 coronavirus tests in the education sector since the institutions reopened on September 15 under the phase 1 of the reopening of the institutions,” Mahmood said on Tuesday while interacting with the media.

"Keeping in view this data, it has been decided to resume primary level classes," he added.

Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus in Pakistan reached 3,12,263 after 747 new cases emerged in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of National Health Services said.

Another five patients died, taking the number of deaths to 6,479 while some 467 patients were in critical conditions. The data showed that 2,96,881 people fully recovered.

The authorities performed another 32,031 tests in the last 24 hours, taking the total tests done so far to 35,14,237.


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September 29,2020


The world officially recorded 1 million deaths from Covid-19 in one of the most sobering milestones of the pandemic, but the real tally might be almost double that.

Actual fatalities from the worst outbreak in a century may be closer to 1.8 million -- a toll that could grow to as high as 3 million by the end of the year, according to Alan Lopez, a laureate professor and director of the University of Melbourne’s global burden of disease group. The coronavirus’s rapid spread and ability to transmit in people who show no signs of the disease have enabled it to outrun measures to accurately quantify cases through widespread diagnostic testing.

“One million deaths has meaning by itself, but the question is whether it’s true,” Lopez said in an interview before the tally was reached. “It’s fair to say that the 1 million deaths, as shocking as it sounds, is probably an underestimate -- a significant underestimate.”

Even in countries with sophisticated health systems, mortality is difficult to accurately gauge. Tens of thousands of probable Covid-19 deaths in the us weren’t captured by official statistics between March and May, a study in July found, frustrating efforts to track and mitigate the pandemic’s progression.

The dearth of accurate data undermines the ability of governments to implement timely strategies and policies to protect public health and promote economic recovery. If the mortality from Covid-19 reaches 3 million as Lopez predicted, it would rank the disease among the world’s worst killers. An undercount in deaths could also give some people a false sense of security, and may allow governments to downplay the virus and overlook the pandemic’s burden.

No System

India has confirmed more than 6 million Covid-19 cases, but accounts for only about 95,000 of the 1 million reported deaths worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The country, which has the highest number of infections after the us, lacks a reliable national vital statistics registration system to track deaths in real time. Meanwhile, in Indiana in the US researchers found that although nursing home residents weren’t routinely tested for the virus, they represented 55% of the state’s Covid-19 deaths.

“Yes, cases are reported daily everywhere, but as soon as you get to the next tier down, like how many were admitted to hospitals, there have just been huge gaps in the data,” said Christopher J. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. Medical data, including duration of illness and symptoms, help to ascribe a probable cause of death, he said.

Patients with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions are at greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Some governments, including Russia, are attributing the cause of deaths in some of these patients to the pre-existing condition, raising questions about the veracity of official mortality data.

WHO Guidelines

In July, Russia recorded 5,922 fatalities due to Covid-19. At least 4,157 other deaths were linked to the coronavirus, but not included in the tally because of how the nation defines such deaths. Overall, it recorded 29,925 more deaths in July than in the same month of 2019.

The WHO laid out guidance for classifying coronavirus deaths in June, advising countries to count fatalities if patients had symptoms of the disease regardless of whether they were a confirmed case, and unless there was a clear alternative cause. A Covid-19 fatality should be counted as such even if pre-existing conditions exacerbated the disease, said the organization. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released similar guidelines.

Still, it may take health workers certifying deaths time to adopt the methodology, the University of Melbourne’s Lopez said. His research has received funding by Bloomberg Philanthropies, set up by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News’ parent Bloomberg LP.

“Doctors often are learning as they go along, so they’re not certifying all the deaths that are due to Covid as Covid deaths,” Lopez said.

Japan Drop

Although the pandemic has altered mortality patterns worldwide, not all of the changes are a direct result of the pandemic, he said. Physical distancing measures may have reduced road fatalities and deaths caused by influenza. In Japan, which has been scrutinized for its lack of widespread testing and relatively lax containment efforts, deaths fell by 3.5% in May from a year earlier even as Covid-19 cases peaked.

“The pandemic actually works in contradictory ways to affect mortality,” Lopez said.

Likewise, the economic cost of the pandemic -- which may top $35.3 trillion through 2025 -- will be driven more by changes in people’s spending patterns than number of deaths and government-mandated “lockdown” measures, according to Warwick McKibbin, a professor of economics at the Australian National University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“We estimate this outbreak is going to cost tens of trillions to the world economy,” McKibbin said in an interview. “The change in economic outcomes is caused by individuals changing their behavior, not because the government mandated a shutdown.”

Worldwide, the growth in the number of daily deaths has eased since spiking in March and April, helped by improved medical care and ways to treat the disease. But as resurgences flare in Europe and North America ahead of winter and the flu season, Covid-19 fatalities may rise sharply again. It took nine days for cases in the UK to double to 3,050 in mid September, compared with the previous doubling time of five weeks, the BMJ journal said last week.

Covid-19 patients between ages 75 to 84 are 220 times more likely to die from the disease than 18-to-29-year-olds, according to the CDC. Seniors over 85 years have a 630 times higher risk of dying. The older age of fatal Covid-19 cases has made some people think “they’re old people, they’re going to die anyway,” said Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“I have a really hard time with that,” Osterholm said in an interview. “That’s an unfortunate and very sad way to come to understand this pandemic. Many of those people who died are very important loved ones to so many of us that it’s hard to just dismiss it as it’s just a number.”


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September 16,2020


Paris, Sept 16: The world has lost nearly 100 million hectares of forests in two decades, marking a steady decline though at a slower pace than before, a UN agency reported Tuesday.

The proportion of forest to total land area fell from 31.9 per cent in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020, now some 4.1 billion hectares, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

It marks "a net loss of almost 100 million hectares of the world's forests," the FAO said.

Deforestation has hit particularly hard sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where it has accelerated in the last decade, but also Latin and Central America, where it has nonetheless slowed down.

Forests are being cut down mainly to make way for crops or farm animals, especially in less developed countries.

In southeast Asia, the forest now covers 47.8 per cent of the land compared to 49 per cent in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, it covers 27.8 per cent compared to 28.7 per cent five years ago.

In Indonesia, it is 50.9 per cent, down from 52.5 per cent. In Malaysia, it is 58.2 per cent, down from 59.2 per cent five years ago.

A country strongly focused on agriculture like the Ivory Coast has seen forests reduced to 8.9 per cent of the total land area from 10.7 per cent in 2015. Kenya, Mali and Rwanda have largely held firm against forest loss.

In Latin and Central America, forest covers only 46.7 per cent of the total land, compared to 47.4 per cent five years ago.

In Brazil, forests declined to 59.4 per cent of the country's territory in 2020 from 60.3 per cent in 2015. In Haiti, deforestation has continued apace -- falling to 12.6 per cent of the total land area from 13.2 per cent in 2015.

In contrast, in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America forest area has increased or stayed the same in the last five years with policies to restore woodland and allow forests to expand naturally.

In China, forests make up 23.3 per cent, up from 22.3 per cent in 2015. In Japan, they account for 68.4 per cent, the same as it was five years ago.

In France, forests cover 31.5 per cent of the land in 2020, up from 30.7 per cent in 2015. In Italy, they make up 32.5 per cent of the national territory, up from 31.6 five years ago.

In Britain, they make up 13.2 per cent, up from 13 per cent five years ago.

In Canada, it is unchanged at 38.2 per cent, and in the United States, unchanged at 33.9 per cent.

In Australia, the figure rose from 17.3 to 17.4 per cent and in New Zealand from 37.4 per cent to 37.6 per cent over the five years.


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