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Monday,10-August-2020

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Donald Trump to start holding rallies: Republican party head

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With elections looming just 21 week away, President Donald Trump is planning to hold rallies again this month in a move to boost his sagging support.

Trump will be holding “full rallies” with safety precautions, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told a Fox News TV programme on Tuesday.

She said that he could resume his rallies now that states are relaxing restrictions that were imposed to combat COVID-19, but did not say when he would.

Politico said that the rallies could start as soon as two weeks.

It quoted Trump’s campaign chief Brad Parscale as saying, “Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump. The great American comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous. You’ll again see the kind of crowds and enthusiasm that sleepy Joe Biden can only dream of.”

Biden, a former vice president who will be the Democratic presidential candidate, is leading Trump by 8 percentage points according to the latest aggregation of poll numbers by RealClear Politics.

He has consistently led Trump in the RealClear Politics averaging of major polls with his lead fluctuating between 4.4 per cent and 8 per cent since January.

Of the so-called battleground states, which can swing either way, Trump is expected to concentrate on six of them, which he won in 2016 but where he is now trailing Biden.

Trump is in his elements at the massive rallies he addresses and his fiery – and down-to-earth – oratory are his strongest bet to draw votes. But COVID-19 — which he calls the “China Virus” — has bottled him up for about 90 days.

A man with an obsession for superlatives, Trump boasts of the 100,000 attendance at the “Namaste Trump” rally in Ahmedabad in February, although probably only a handful of audience were American voters.

McDaniel said that there would be temperature checks and other safety precautions similar to those proposed for holding the party’s convention in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Holding of the convention at which Trump would be formally anointed as the party’s presidential candidate is up in the air because Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, has refused to say whether because of the COVID-19 restrictions he would allow it to be held in Charlotte as planned.

The RNC had said it was expecting 50,000 people for its convention and is looking at alternative sites.

Not being able to hold the convention, a national tradition that gets three days of national attention and TV time, or scaling it down will be a set-back for Trump to get his message out.

The Democrats, who have been cautious about loosening the pandemic restrictions and criticised Trump for advocating restarting the economy and society, have yet to decide if they will hold the convention scheduled for August in Milwaukee. But they have made provisions in their rules for virtual voting by convention delegates to formally nominate Biden as the party candidate.

If Trump holds rallies, it will create a dilemma for Democrats, who oppose a full opening of the country but will have to counter Trump.

But the tens of thousands of its supporters who have participated in the protests against police brutality have flouted social distancing – and even mask – guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, which may make strictly holding on to them for the convention moot.

Trump initially had a propaganda advantage after suspending his campaign rallies in March because he held centre-stage in the daily briefings on the coronavirus crisis along with experts.

But the briefings are now only held intermittently.

Trump’s campaign web site has not listed any live events as of Tuesday, but has schedules for virtual meetings but none mentioned Trump’s participation.

When Trump holds his rallies, he will face several logistical problems such as how to maintain social distancing among the tens of thousands of his supporters.

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Saudi Arabia holds back oil to Pakistan after Qureshi’s threat to split OIC

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Saudi Arabia has halted the provision of oil on loan for Pakistan after the Imran Khan government threatened to split the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) over Kashmir.

Hit by a severe economic crisis, Pakistan had borrowed a $6.2 billion loan from Saudi Arabia in 2018.

The loan package included a provision under which Saudi Arabia granted Pakistan $3.2 billion worth of oil, a year on deferred payments.

Pakistani media on Saturday said that the provision meant for Islamabad expired two months ago and has not been renewed by Riyadh.

Instead, Islamabad has prematurely returned $1 billion Saudi loan, four months ahead of repayment period, The Express Tribune said quoting sources and Sajid Qazi, the spokesperson of the Petroleum Division.

Recently Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a talk show on a news channel had threatened that if the OIC headed by Saudi Arabia did not convene a foreign ministers’ meeting on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan would hold it on his own with his allies among the Islamic countries.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir…,” he had threatened on Ary news channel.

The OIC, the biggest bloc of Islamic countries in the world, has repeatedly declined Islamabad’s several requests to hold a meeting on Indian Kashmir — a region which Pakistan Army attempted to invade four times in the last seven decades and where it has been waging a proxy war against India for last three decades.

Since August 2019 when India revoked special status of the Jammu and Kashmir state and brought it directly under the control of the Central government by bifurcating it into two Union Territories, the Imran Khan government has been seeking support of the 57-member OIC over the issue in Pakistan’s favour.

One of the major reasons for OIC’s lack of support for Pakistan has been Riyadh’s displeasure with Islamabad’s proximity with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who nurtures the ambition of replacing Saudi Arabia as leader of all the Sunni Islamic countries.

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International News

No return to old normal in foreseeable future: WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

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There will be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and too many countries were still headed in the wrong direction, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

“The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this,” Xinhua news agency quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at as saying a regular briefing on Monday.

He noted that mixed messages from leaders are undermining trust, which is the most critical ingredient of any response, while the only aim of the virus is to find people to infect.

Things are going to “get worse and worse and worse”, he warned, unless governments communicate clearly with their citizens and roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives, while populations follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying home when sick.

COVID-19 has been gaining its momentum lately.

According to Tedros, Sunday saw a record of 230,000 cases reported to WHO, of which almost 80 percent were from just 10 countries and about half from just two countries.

“But it does not have to be this way,” he said, asking every single leader, government and individual “to do their bit to break the chains of COVID-19 transmission and end the collective suffering”.

To control the disease and get on with people’s lives, Tedros said, three things are required. The first is to focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission; the second is to focus on an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.

And the third is a strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.

“We weren’t prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now,” he added.

At the WHO briefing on Monday, health experts also said there was evidence to suggest that children under the age of 10 were only very mildly affected by Covid-19, while those over 10 seemed to suffer similar mild symptoms to young adults.

To what extent children can transmit the virus, while it appears to be low, remains unknown.

On Tuesday, the number of global coronavirus cases cross the 13 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases currently stood at 13,070,097, while the fatalities rose to 572,411, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities at 3,363,056 and 135,605, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 1,884,967 infections and 72,833 deaths.

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WHO acknowledges Dharavi’s success over Covid-19

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In a major to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra government’s morale, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has lauded their success over the Covid-19 outbreak in Dharavi – Asia’s largest slum.

WHO Director-General Tedros A. Ghebreyesus, at a press conference late on Friday, referred to the achievements made in the Dharavi among other similar examples globally.

“Even in Dharavi, a densely packed area in Mumbai, a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission, and suppressing the virus,” Ghebreyesus said.

In this context, he pointed out that there are many, many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the Covid-19 outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control, as in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and South Korea.

Responding quickly, the BMC said: “Thank You, WHO for acknowledging #Mission Dharavi where it partnered with citizens to ‘Chase the Virus’ from one of the most populous blocks of the city”.

“With your guidelines and Mumbai’s community efforts, we will beat Covid-19 one block at a time by Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating,” the BMC’s return tweet said.

Ghebreyesus also stressed the need for community participation and collective solidarity – akin to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s appeal two days ago for forming Corona Vigilance Committees right down to the village levels, and asking NGOs to adopt Mumbai slums with public partnership to beat the Coronavirus.

Reacting to the WHO DG’s comments, Health Minister Rajesh Tope admitted that “we have worked very hard from day one along with the people of Dharavi” and even in Malegaon, Nashik, and now the results are showing in both places.

“It was an aggressive fight, surveillance of the population, early detection of symptoms, isolation in government quarantine centres in a huge way, all precautions like fogging the area regularly, disinfecting public toilets repeatedly daily, starting fever clinics, providing portable chest x-ray machines, temperature guns, etc, even in Malegaon,” Tope told IANS.

He said that in both places, “we have managed to flatten the curve, we don’t expect it to worsen any further, but we also can’t take chances so will continue to remain vigilant”.

Education Minister and MLA from Dharavi Varsha Gaikwad said she was “proud of all Dharavians.. as today they have set an example for the world.

“WHO has recognized and praised our efforts against this war (vis-A-vis) Corona… Let’s keep up the good work and we will fight in the strongest way,” a thrilled Gaikwad tweeted.

The WHO head also cautioned that from countries where there is exponential growth to places that are loosening restrictions, are “now starting to see cases rise”.

For this, Ghebreyesus assured that WHO will continue to work with partners to ensure that the poorest and most marginalized are prioritized.

“That means restarting routine immunization and ensuring that medical supplies reach health workers across the worlda Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn the Covid-19 pandemic around,” Ghebreyesus asserted.

After the success in Dharavi — chronicled in a series of reports by IANS over the past three months — the model is being replicated in north Mumbai where there has been a huge spike in recent weeks with a public-private-partnership.

However, both Maharashtra and Mumbai have a long way to go yet as the state has 9,893 deaths and 238,461 cases while Mumbai stands at 5,205 fatalities and 90,461 cases till date.

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