The Latest: Pakistan PM, radical religious leaders at odds

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


—Trump hoping to resume campaign rallies without social distancing.

— Japan surpasses 10,000 virus cases; Abe stresses importance of social distancing.

—South Korea shows lowest daily jump in virus cases since Feb. 20.

—Pakistan’s radical religious leaders urged adherents into mosques; PM seeks to stem virus.


ISLAMABAD __ Pakistan’s radical religious leaders urged adherents into mosques even as Prime Minister Imran Khan tries to find a way to stem the coronavirus in Pakistan, where Saturday showed a jump of 465 new cases bringing the total of confirmed cases to 7,481.

Pakistan has ramped up testing, but the poor country that on Friday received a $1.4 billion International Monetary Fund emergency loan conducts less than 6,500 tests a day.

There are 220 million people in Pakistan, a country with less than 3,000 intensive care beds and a health care system that struggled to deal with its sick before the pandemic strained its resources.

But it is the government’s refusal to rein in its radical religious leaders and order its mosques closed that has its critics worried as the group causing one of the fastest spreads of the virus inside Pakistan was the Tableeghi Jamaat (Islamic missionaries), whose massive gatherings in March were stopped late.

In religiously conservative Pakistan Islamic clerics have become increasingly powerful, using their ability to rally the faithful into mobs in the street.

On Friday in a mosque in the federal capital, scores of faithful gathered for Friday prayers in defiance of a government order to limit gatherings to four or less. Standing guard inside the mosque was a guard with a firearm at his side. The capital police did not prevent the gathering.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily jump since Feb. 20, continuing a downward trend as officials discuss more sustainable forms of social distancing that allows for some communal and economic activity.

Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,653 cases and 232 virus-related deaths. The caseload continued to wane in the hardest-hit city of Daegu, where officials say the number of active cases dropped below 1,000 for the first time since a surge of infections in late February.

At least 993 of overall infections have been linked to arrivals from overseas. Most of these cases were detected in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area over the past month as thousands of students and other South Korean nationals returned home amid worsening outbreaks and suspended school years in Europe and the United States.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip on Saturday called for vigilance to maintain the hard-won gains against the virus, raising concern over continuing infections at hospitals and local transmissions health workers have been unable to trace. It would also take a week or two to assess the impact of Wednesday’s national parliamentary election, which showed the highest turnout in nearly three decades despite the epidemic.

While saying that a quick return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy would be impossible, Kim said officials as early as Sunday could announce essential parts of a new guideline that would replace the country’s weeks-long social distancing campaign. Officials have said they are looking for ways to allow people to engage in “certain levels of economic and social activity” while containing the risk of infection.

Government officials have yet to share specific details about the new guideline.


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it released all foreign nationals from coronavirus quarantine while it continues to strengthen anti-virus efforts.

The official Korean Central News Agency also said Saturday authorities released all citizens who had been quarantined in the provinces of South Phyongan and North Hwanghae, which are near capital Pyongyang, and the city of Rason at a tri-point bordering China and Russia.

The report didn’t specify how many people remained under the country’s 30-day quarantine. Figures from previous state media reports suggest the North would have released close to 10,000 people over the past weeks.

The North had initially placed 380 foreigners under quarantine. The North in March arranged a special government flight to fly out dozens of diplomats to Vladivostok, Russia.

The KCNA says officials are continuing to strengthen “medical monitoring” of its citizens while ensuring normal activity for those released from quarantine.

The North has said there hasn’t been a single virus case on its territory, but the claim is questioned by many outside experts.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” the North has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.


TOKYO — Japan had 556 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing a national total to 9,795, the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Saturday.

With an addition of 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, Japan now has 10,507 cases altogether, surpassing the 10,000-mark about three months after the first case was found in the country.

Nearly one-third of the domestic cases come from Tokyo, where daily surge in the cases has overburdened hospitals, triggering fear of the collapse of medical system.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded his April 7 state of emergency, which was limited to Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, to all of Japan on Thursday. He expressed concern at a news conference Friday that people are not observing the government-requested social distancing as much as they should.

So far, additional requests of non-essential business closures are in place only in Tokyo and several other prefectures, and starting in few other areas. In Japan, the measures carry no penalties.

Abe’s nationwide stay-at-home request comes ahead of the weekend and an upcoming “golden week” holidays at the end of April, as official try to stop people from traveling and potentially spreading virus. Abe also announced a 100,000-yen ($930) cash handout to all residents to give them more incentive to comply.


BEIJING — China has reported 27 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, as it tries to stem an upsurge in infections in a northeastern province bordering Russia.

Twenty of the new cases were in Heilongjiang province, including 13 Chinese nationals who had returned recently from Russia. The land border with Russia has been closed.

China’s official death toll rose sharply to 4,632, reflecting a major upwards revision the previous day by authorities in Wuhan, the nation’s hardest-hit city.

The latest confirmed cases brought the total to 82,719, of which 77,029 have recovered and been discharged, the National Health Commission said.

Eighteen officials in Heilongjiang province have been punished for failures in their response to the outbreak, state media reported Friday. They include the deputy mayor of Harbin, the provincial capital, and a vice president of Harbin Medical University. They were given warnings, or demerits, in their personnel files.


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he remains hopeful that he will be able to resume campaign rallies ahead of the November election.

Trump said that he does not want social distancing at his rallies, which typically draw big crowds, because doesn’t want attendees to miss the “flavor” of the experience. Trump stopped holding his big stadium rallies in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president predicted that when the rallies resume they’ll be “bigger than ever.”

Trump has only left Washington once over the last month as he’s dealt with the pandemic.

But the president announced Friday that he plans to travel to the U.S. Military Academy in New York next month for its commencement ceremony.


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Categories: National News