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MHA denies permission to 600 Sikh pilgrims planning to visit Pak; cites security, COVID situation there

(Asian News Hub) – The Union Home Ministry Wednesday denied permission to 600 Sikh pilgrims intending to visit gurdwaras in Pakistan citing the security and COVID-19 situation in that country, officials said.

In a communication to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the home ministry said the security situation in Pakistan continues to be adverse and there is a threat to Indian citizens in that country.

Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected five lakh people in Pakistan and 10,000 people lost their lives due to the disease.

The health infrastructure in Pakistan is also not adequate, the ministry said.

It also said both passenger as well as trade traffic between India and Pakistan has stopped since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Citing these reasons, the home ministry conveyed to the SGPC that it has decided not to accord permission to the Jatha comprising 600 pilgrims which intended to cross over to Pakistan on Friday.


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Muslim woman performs last rites of Hindu man in Maharashtra

(Asian News Hub) – Putting humanity above religion, a Muslim woman in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur city performed the last rites of a COVID-19 infected Hindu man whose close relatives could not come for funeral as they had tested positive for coronavirus.

The humanitarian act by Ayesha Raut, who works as a senior manager at Aster Adhar Hospital in Kolhapur, has come in the midst of gloomy atmosphere caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when family members and relatives are shying away from ensuring decent last rites for their near and dear ones.

On May 9, she performed the last rites of one Sudhakar Vedak (81), who died after battling COVID-19 for a week in the Aster Adhar Hospital, as per Hindu tradition.

Speaking to PTI, Raut said, As part of annual distribution drive during the holy month of Ramzan, my family had decided to donate PPE kits to people working in cemeteries and crematoriums in Kolhapur city.

“When I was at the Panchganga crematorium to distribute PPE kits, I received a call from Dr Harshala Vedak, whose father Sudhakar Vedak had died on Sunday (May 9).

Dr Harshala Vedak asked Raut if she could facilitate the last rites of her father at the Panchganga crematorium as all her family members, including herself, were infected with coronavirus. She and Raut know each other professionally.

Dr Harshala Vedak works as a resident medical officer at state-run Chhatrapati Pramila Raje Hospital in the city, around 375km from Mumbai.

I was a bit upset as there was no one from Sudhakar Vedaks side to even attend the funeral. So I called Dr Vedak and sought her permission to perform her father’s last rites.

“With her nod, I wore PPE kit and performed the last rites as per Hindu rituals, Raut said.
Dr Harshala Vedak hailed Rauts noble and kind gesture.

“When a relative dies, there is grief in the family and due to COVID-19 restrictions, people feel the pain more because they can not even attend funeral or perform last rites,” Dr Harshala Vedak said.

Sudhakar Vedak’s condition deteriorated on Friday and he died on Sunday, but none from his family could visit the hospital because all of them, including Dr Harshala Vedak, had tested positive for coronavirus and were in home quarantine.

My father has three daughters and I am the eldest one. Three years back, when my mother lost her battle to cancer, I had performed her last rites in Mumbai.

“Our parents were always proud of their daughters and we never faced any discrimination while growing up. Hence, it was not very difficult for me to accept that a woman is going to perform the last rites on my father, Dr Harshala Vedak said.

She said Raut’s religion was not an issue.

“There was no issue at all with Ayesha, being a Muslim, performing the last rites. In fact, we all are full of gratitude for what she did.

“I know Ayesha professionally for the last few years.
I saw her initiative as a good example being set before the society, Dr Harshala Vedak said.

Asked about her state of mind when she decided to perform the last rites, Raut said, I felt very sad that no relative was present and Sudhakar Vedaks body was kept there along with other bodies.

“There was a long queue of dead bodies at the crematorium and most of them were put on funeral pyre by crematorium workers. It was a very depressing scene.”

Raut said she did not think about religion when she lit the funeral pyre.

“I could at least offer some solace to the family by performing the rites. I did not think for a second that I am a Muslim and I am performing the last rites of a Hindu, Raut said.

Asked how people perceived her act, she said, This is Kolhapur which has a long history of movements related to social reforms. I have not face any disapproval of my act…

everyone appreciated my gesture………


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“Black Fungus” infection found in India among COVID-19 patients

(Asian News Hub) – Indian doctors have recorded a huge surge in cases of mucormycosis, an aggressive, hard-to-treat fungal infection, among COVID-19 patients.

“Now, I am seeing as many as 25 mucormycosis cases in a week, all COVID-19 patients either currently on treatment or recovered,” said Dr Milind Navalakhe, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Global Hospital in Mumbai.

The western state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, has officially reported over 2,000 cases and eight fatalities due to mucormycosis so far.

The state’s health minister Rajesh Tope has announced the setting up of special wards in hospitals to treat the fungal disease.

Medical experts say mucormycosis is an “opportunistic infection”—it latches on to people who are battling illnesses or are on medications that lower the body’s ability to fight infections.

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COVID19: Six to Eight weeks Lockdown needed in India to break the Chain says ICMR Chief

(Asian News Hub) – Balram Bhargava, the head of the country’s main health agency responding to the coronavirus, has said that the districts reporting a high number of infections should remain locked down for another six to eight weeks to control the spread of the rampaging disease.

Dr. Bhargava, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said in an interview that lockdown restrictions should remain in place in all districts where the rate of infection is above 10% of those tested.

Currently, three-fourths of Indias 718 districts have what is known as a test-positivity rate above 10%, including major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and the tech hub of Bengaluru.

Bhargavas comments are the first time a senior government official has outlined how long lockdowns, which already encompass large parts of the country, need to continue to rein in the crisis in India. The Narendra Modi government has shied away from imposing a nationwide lockdown because of the economic impact and has left it to state governments.

Several states have introduced varying levels of curbs on economic activity and public movement to stop the spread of the virus, which are mostly being reviewed and extended on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

“The high positivity districts should remain (shut). If they come to 5% from 10% (positivity rate) we can open them, but that has to happen. That wont happen in six, eight weeks, clearly,” Bhargava said in an interview at the New Delhi headquarters of the ICMR, the countrys top medical research body.

Referring to the capital, one of Indias hardest-hit cities where the positivity rate reached around 35% but has now fallen to about 17%, Bhargava said, “If Delhi is opened tomorrow, it will be a disaster.”

The country is in deep crisis in the current wave of COVID-19 infections with around 350,000 cases and 4,000 deaths being reported daily. Hospitals and morgues are overflowing, medical staff is exhausted and oxygen and drugs are running short.

Many experts say the actual case tallies and deaths could be five to 10 times higher. PM Modi and other top political leaders have faced a public backlash for addressing mass election rallies where no major COVID-19 safety protocols were followed.


Bhargava did not criticise the Modi government but conceded there had been a delay in responding to the crisis. “I think the only discontent we have was there was a slight delay accepting the 10% (recommendation), but that did happen,” he said.

He said an April 15 meeting of the National Task Force on COVID-19 had made the recommendation to the government to lock down areas with a 10% positivity rate or higher.

Yet, in a televised speech on April 20, PM Modi dissuaded states and said a lockdown should be used as a “last resort” and the focus should remain on “micro containment zones”. On April 26 – more than 10 days after the task force meeting – the home ministry wrote to states, asking them to implement strict measures for “large containment areas” in hard-hit districts, but only for 14 days.

Reuters reported earlier this month the head of the National Centre for Disease Control had privately told an online gathering that strict lockdown measures were required in early April. Two senior ICMR officials told Reuters the organization was frustrated about political leaders addressing large rallies and allowing religious gatherings, saying the actions publicly flouted required safety measures. Modi himself addressed several of the political meetings, maskless.

“Our messaging has been completely incorrect, not in sync with the situation,” said one of the officials, referring to the government. “We have miserably failed.”

Bhargava denied there was any discontent within the ICMR and added the agency was on the same page with policymakers. Without commenting directly on political leaders, he said mass gatherings during COVID-19 should not be acceptable in India or anywhere else. “Its common sense,” he said.


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