Coronavirus takes further toll on Pakistani media 

In this picture, AFP photographer Aamir Qureshi covers Christian devotees celebrating a Palm Sunday service in a neighborhood during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Islamabad on April 5, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2020

Coronavirus takes further toll on Pakistani media 

  • Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) calls on media organizations to enforce stricter safety rules
  • More than 150 journalists are known to have tested positive for COVID-19

KARACHI: Three Pakistani media staff lost their battle with the coronavirus on Thursday, as pressure is mounting on news organizations to protect their workers.
Two Radio Pakistan employees, Urdu newscaster Huma Zafar and senior broadcast engineer Muhammad Ashfaq died of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, the radio confirmed in a statement.
Also in the morning, 92 News senior reporter Fakhruddin Syed succumbed to the disease.
“Fakhruddin Syed is the first journalist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who lost his life due to this pandemic. He was one of the pioneers from 92 News HD channel,” 92 News said in an obituary on its website.
Last week, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) appealed to media organizations to enforce stricter safety rules, as more journalists have been sent into the field since the country lifted the remaining restrictions imposed on businesses to slow the pandemic.
The PFUJ’s COVID-19 committee head, Zulfiqar Ali Mehto, told Arab News on May 21 that the majority of the infected were reporters, cameramen and photojournalists, which implies that they had contracted the virus during field coverage.
Newsrooms are not safe either, according to PFUJ.
“We have rigorously worked on collecting data and have analyzed each case, which tells us that protective measures are not being taken seriously. If a single person is infected, given almost zero space between workstations, the virus may spread across the whole office,” Mehto said, adding that few media organizations provided hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves to their staff.
More than 150 journalists are known to have tested positive for the virus, according to PFUJ’s last week’s report. 
With Thursday’s victims, at least six Pakistani media workers have died of the disease.


300 Pakistani doctors return to Saudi after getting stuck in their country

Updated 10 July 2020

300 Pakistani doctors return to Saudi after getting stuck in their country

  • The medical professionals had taken leave from work before the COVID-19 outbreak and were visiting relatives in Pakistan
  • The remaining 200 doctors are scheduled to fly back to the Kingdom next week, says Pakistan’s envoy in Riyadh

ISLAMABAD: More than 300 Pakistani doctors, employed by Saudi hospitals, flew back to the Kingdom last week after getting stuck in their country for months due to the suspension of international flight operations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz told Arab News on Friday.
The medical professionals had taken leave before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and were visiting relatives in Pakistan.
“Over 300 Pakistani medics and their families returned to Saudi Arabia last week,” the envoy informed. “The remaining 200 are scheduled to return during the second week of July.”
Ejaz said the embassy had raised the issue of Pakistani doctors with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April 2020, soliciting permission for their return so they could help the Kingdom in its battle against the contagion.
“Pakistani doctors are working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic and constitute the backbone of the Kingdom’s COVID-19 response,” Dr. Asad Ullah Roomi, president of the Pakistan Doctors’ Group in Riyadh, told Arab News.
He added that the return of the Pakistani medical professionals would help Saudi Arabia deal with the new coronavirus.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistan Embassy that made it possible for these doctors to return to the Kingdom and resume their duties,” he added.
Dr. Imran Chaudhry, resident physician at the Convalescence Hospital & PT Center, Al-Baha, was stuck in Lahore and recently returned to the Kingdom to rejoin his work.
He thanked the Saudi government for facilitating the return of the doctors, saying their presence in the country was vital to help COVID-19 patients.
“We wanted to rejoin our duty to serve the people in need, and the Saudi government turned it into a smooth process. The Kingdom even provided free tickets to those who could not make travel arrangements for their families,” he told Arab News.
“We had to wait for a long time, but we are back in Saudi Arabia now. At the moment, we have quarantined ourselves, but we will resume our work in the next few days,” Chaudhary said.