Pakistanis on Saturday celebrated the country’s first day of the holy month of Ramadan by flocking to mosques and markets, ignoring advice to stay home as coronavirus cases rise.Prime Minister Imran Khan has come under pressure for his handling of the virus crisis, after causing confusion by saying Pakistan could not afford the type of sweeping lockdowns seen in other nations. Similar scenes unfolded in the northwestern city of Peshawar and in the eastern city of Lahore.Muneeb Khan, 27, said he was fed up with wearing a mask and gloves.”How long are we going to wear them? I am tired of it, now it depends on my mood, sometimes I wear it and sometimes not,” he told AFP as he shopped at a pharmacy.At Islamabad’s mosques, worshipers were thinner on the ground than typical for Ramadan’s first day, but elsewhere social distancing guidelines and a ban on older worshipers were widely ignored.Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s special advisor for health, decried the rush to the markets and pleaded with people to stay home.”This is against the guidelines and directives,” he told reporters. “Pakistan is passing through a very crucial phase and if we do not take preventive measures, this disease will spike very quickly.”Read also: Benhil Market empty of Ramadan snack sellers amid COVID-19 pandemicDoctors associations have repeatedly called on the government to impose a comprehensive lockdown as pressure grows on the country’s already struggling health system. So far Pakistan has recorded more than 12,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 256 deaths — but with only limited testing, the real numbers are believed to be much higher.The World Health Organization has warned that without effective interventions, Pakistan cases could soar to 200,000 cases by mid-July.”The impacts on the economy could be devastating, doubling the number of people living in poverty. We must act in solidarity, with a coherent, coordinated approach,” the WHO, quoting chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Twitter.Asad Umar, who heads the national coronavirus task force, told reporters authorities had approved a “smart lockdown” aimed at testing people, then tracking or quarantining those who are positive.”Ramadan is a decisive month,” he said. Topics : His government also caved to religious pressure, allowing daily prayers and evening congregations at mosques during Ramadan, albeit with some protective measures in place. In a snub to Khan’s leadership, Pakistan’s powerful military on Friday urged people to pray at home, warning the “next 15 days are crucial”.But that advice was largely ignored or downplayed across much of the country, home to about 215 million people who often live in cramped, multi-generational quarters. In Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to Islamabad, thousands of shoppers thronged popular markets, some without wearing protective gear, to buy food for evening iftar meals that celebrate the end of each day’s fasting.
By John BurtonRED BANK – With the sudden death of an 18-year-old Red Bank Regional High School senior, the leader of a local community organization felt it was appropriate to honor the girl’s memory by way of a public vigil.Linda Clark, who founded the Count The Children Movement in the borough, organized the candlelight vigil for Sept. 14, in response to the death of Riyadhna Farrow.“We looked at it as something where we could come out and support the family and to let her friends share their love,” Clark said.According to Clark, the vigil brought about 200 people to Montgomery Terrace, where the student lived with her family.Capt. Darren McConnell, a Red Bank police spokesman, said Farrow’s death “appears to have been from natural causes,” but additional tests have been conducted. “I can tell you we ruled out any kind of foul play,” he said.“She deserved to be remembered for who she was,” said Clark, a lifelong resident.Among the roughly 200 who gathered at the Evergreen Public Housing development were fellow students, high school administration representatives, local clergy, Mayor Pasquale Menna and the six borough council members, according to Clark.Councilwoman Sharon Lee noted that similar events in the recent past have been set into motion by violent acts or to make a political statement, such as one held in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.The gathering for Farrow wasn’t for a political reason and was attended by many fellow students. “It was grief,” she said. “It was sorrow over the loss of one of their peers.”Farrow, Lee said, was a good student, excelling in math and science, working part time at Foodtown, Broad Street.“She had focus and direction and a lot of young people don’t have that today,” Lee said. “She was a role model.”What also struck Lee was how the young people depended on each other for support. “They needed to come together and hug each other,” she said. “That’s one of the things I noticed, the prolonged hugs.“It was very comforting to the family to see so many young people come to her home and express their concern,” Lee said.The gathering provided a chance for an impromptu fundraising effort, to assist the family with funeral costs, collecting $1,150, Clark said.Farrow’s funeral service was held Tuesday evening, Sept. 18, at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 172 Shrewsbury Ave. She is survived by her parents, six brothers and four sisters.