Will reopen businesses if infections don't spike over Eid - Pakistan PM

In this picture taken on July 22, 2020 Aqib Mughal (L) and Yasir Iqbal, who runs a website that sells goats through online to customers, upload pictures of goats on their website ahead of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha or the 'Festival of Sacrifice', at a farm in Pakistan's port city of Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 28 July 2020

Will reopen businesses if infections don't spike over Eid - Pakistan PM

  • Urges public to follow coronavirus safety protocols during upcoming Eid Al-Adha festival and Muharram
  • Pakistan’s daily death toll from coronavirus dropped to 20 on Monday from 153 on June 20, a 87% decrease 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged the Pakistani public to follow coronavirus safety protocols during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha festival and the Islamic month of Muharram.
On Monday, Pakistan’s daily death toll from coronavirus dropped to 20 from 153 on June 20 – a 87 percent decrease – while daily infections have dropped from over 6,000 to 1,176.
Many Pakistanis ignored social distancing rules during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan in May, leading to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Eid Al-Adha begins on August 1 in Pakistan and Muharram on August 21. Every year Muslims in Pakistan crowd mosques and prayer grounds across the country to offer prayers and sacrifice goats and cows for the Eid Al-Adha holiday, which marks the second major religious festival of Islam.
“The cases may spike again if we fail to take precautions during Eid and Muharram,” Khan said in a televised address. “Use face masks while going to the cattle markets [to buy sacrificial animals] … try to switch to online qurbani [sacrifice ritual].”
“We will be putting lives of our elderly and sick at risk by not following the precautions,” he added.
Khan said his government was planning to open restaurants, marriage halls, and educational institutions after Muharram – the first month of the Islamic calendar – provided infections didn’t spike again.
“We will open the tourism sector and restaurants to revive the economy,” Khan said.
The government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and most populous province, announced on Monday that it was imposing a ‘smart lockdown’ in the province, effective from midnight Tuesday till August 5, whereby all retail shops, shopping malls, educational and training institutes, marriage halls, business centers, restaurants, parks, play areas and arcades, beauty spas, cinemas and theaters will remain closed.
The move comes as the province reported zero deaths for the first time in two months, while the daily tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases remained below 500 for a week.
Pakistan has recorded over 274,000 infections of coronavirus and nearly 5,842 deaths. 

Pakistani-Americans take telehealth initiative to UAE, Saudi Arabia

Updated 4 min 24 sec ago

Pakistani-Americans take telehealth initiative to UAE, Saudi Arabia

  • VeeMed, a startup, is also working on affordable solutions for Pakistani and Indian patients
  • The startup collaborated with Karachi’s Indus Hospital in the past and plans to do it again to help the underprivileged

KARACHI: A Pakistani-American startup has joined hands with a major business group in the United Arab Emirates to provide telehealth services to patients in the Middle East and beyond, the company’s president, Ijaz Arif, told Arab News on Friday. 

“We just formed a partnership with SEED, one of the most influential groups in the UAE, and this partnership spans over the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and India,” he said, adding that his company would extend the same services to people in the UAE and Saudi Arabia that it offered its clients in the United States since most residents of the two Arab states did not have affordability issues. 

“For places like Pakistan, India and North Africa, we will have to come up with new ways, new technologies that are affordable,” Arif continued. “We are working on that.” 

Arif informed that the charity wing of his organization, VeeMed, had collaborated with Indus Hospital, the largest charity health facility in Pakistan’s Sindh province, in the past to offer free medical services to the financially underprivileged segments. 

“We at one point were working with Indus Hospital in Pakistan. We will actually continue to do that in order to provide free technology and services to them. We are also planning to help different non-government organizations in the same way,” he said. 

Telehealth services have been available in the developed world for a considerably long period, but it only gained momentum in Pakistan with the COVID-19 outbreak when most medics started seeing patients online. 

VeeMed, the startup Arif cofounded with Dr. Arshad Ali in 2016, also acquired greater prominence during the same period and started extending its services to the Middle East and North Africa along with India and Pakistan. 

Ali, the cofounder of the company, said that telehealth was beneficial even when there was no pandemic. 

“In telemedicine, health care services can be delivered at home after a patient makes a request through an online system. A physician can then log in to do medical examination,” he explained. 

Ali added that patients in small cities and rural setups could avail the option since good doctors and specialists were usually not available in such areas. 

He informed that VeeMed also managed intensive care units (ICU) remotely in areas where senior doctors were not practicing by guiding medics online. 

“VeeMed is founded by overseas Pakistanis, and we have developed our own turnkey solutions for virtual health care,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Arif pointed out that technology had proved its worth during the coronavirus pandemic and it would continue to grow due to trending online health services. 

“Before the pandemic, such online services were not too common, but now people are getting used to it and realize how easy it is to see a doctor through this technology. Big health care systems, governments and clinics are not going to abandon its use even after the pandemic is over,” he said. 

“Our response time is less than three minutes,” Arif added. “We have even responded to people suffering stroke in two and a half minutes. Time is very important since it saves lives.”