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27 killed as gunmen attack Kabul gurdwara; India condemns ‘diabolical mindset of perpetrators’

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Unidentified gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a Sikh gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 27 worshippers and wounding as many, in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority community in the country, according to media reports. Eight people were injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, all the four terrorists have been killed by Afghan security forces.

The gunmen attacked the gurdwara in Shor Bazar area at about 7:45 a.m. (local time). Around 150 people were reportedly worshipping in the gurdwara at the time of the attack.

Kabul police earlier said that at least 11 children were rescued from the gurdwara.

Sikh lawmaker Nardendar Singh Khalisa told reporters close to the scene that up to 150 people were praying inside the gurdwara when it came under attack.

India has condemned the heinous terror attack on the gurdwara in Kabul and said such “cowardly attacks especially at this time of COVID 19 pandemic is reflective of diabolical mindset of perpetrators, their backers”.

“We convey our sincerest condolences to the immediate family members of the deceased and wish speedy recovery to the injured. India stands ready to extend all possible assistance to the affected families of the Hindu and Sikh community of Afghanistan,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

India, meanwhile, commend the brave Afghan security forces for their valorous response to the attack and their exemplary courage and dedication to protect the Afghan people and secure the country.

The ministry added that India stands in solidarity with the people, the Government and the security forces of Afghanistan in their efforts for bringing peace and security to the country.

Reacting to the terror attack, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday tweeted, “Suicide attack on a Gurudwara Sahib in Kabul needs to be strongly condemned. These killings are a grim reminder of atrocities that continue to be inflicted upon religious minorities in some countries and the urgency with which their lives and religious freedom have to be safeguarded.”

The Ashraf Ghani government has blamed the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network for the terror attack.

However, the Taliban, has denied involvement in the attack on the Sikh shrine. Though the US and Taliban have signed a peace deal, violence in Afghanistan remains unabated.

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Decision to extend curfew in Punjab to depend on prevailing situation: CM Amarinder Singh

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Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Friday made it clear that any decision on extending the curfew beyond April 14 would depend on the prevailing situation.

The CM was reacting to reports in a section of the media quoting him as saying that he will not lift the curfew, imposed in the light of COVID-19 crisis, on April 14.

Amarinder said what he had said was that no firm decision or timeline could be committed at this juncture. Restrictions would have to continue as long as needed to save lives and save the state, he added.

Any decision on lifting or extending the curfew or lockdown in the state will be taken in the light of the situation that exists at the time, said Amarinder. It would depend entirely on how things are then, he said, adding that it was not possible to commit either way at this juncture, when the situation as dynamically evolving.

If things improve then there would be no need for such tight restrictions, said the Chief Minister. However, if the situation takes a turn for the worse, there would be no option with the government but to continue with controls, either through curfew or lockdown or any other necessary means, he added.

The CM, at the same time, assured the people of Punjab that his government would continue to take more and more steps to minimise the hardships suffered by them as a result of the curfew. Already, a lot of essential services that were initially locked down had been restored, he pointed out, citing the examples of banking, postal and courier, harvesting, etc.

The necessity for doctors, health staff and regular patients to take curfew passes had also been done away with.

Going forward, a lot more steps would be taken to further ease the lives of the citizens, irrespective of whether or not the curfew continues, said Amarinder.

Punjab was the first state in the country to impose curfew in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

The CM said while the move has helped to keep the spread of the Coronavirus under check, the state government would not allow itself to become complacent.

Amarinder said he had already directed the Health Department to prepare, on war footing, for any eventuality, including community spread of the pandemic.

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‘It’s voluntary, I’m choosing not to do it,’ says Trump as he urges Americans to wear face masks

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United States recommended all Americans to use non-medical masks as an additional public health measure on Friday, to fight the deadly coronavirus that has so far claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people in the country, fearing that the illness may be spreading by normal breathing.

“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing. You don’t have to do it and I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s okay,”  said Trump while talking to reporters.

Trump asked people to keep medical-grade masks available for the health workers, and citing the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he urged Americans to wear face coverings like scarves or homemade cloth masks.

The US President told reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Friday, that the CDC has recommended that people wear a basic cloth or fabric masks that can be either purchased online or simply made at home.

“The CDC is not recommending the use of medical-grade or surgical-grade masks. Those needs to be used for medical people working to save lives of Americans. Medical protective gear must be reserved for the front-line healthcare workers who are performing those vital services,” he said.

Trump also stressed upon that CDC’s guidance on social distancing, including staying at home when possible, standing at least 6 feet apart will stay in places such as grocery stores would last “for a period of time.” He also called for practicing hand hygiene.

Based on the new available data, CDC said the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity–for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing–even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

Research indicates “the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing,” news agency AFP quoted Anthony Fauci, who is leading the country’s scientific response, as saying.

Recently, Fauci, backed a scholarship that found SARS-CoV-2 can be suspended in the ultrafine mist formed when people exhale.

The new advisory came as the US reported the highest number of deaths in one day, in any country since the pandemic started with 1,480 fatalities breaking its own undistinguished record of 1,169 deaths from the previous day.

The deadly coronavirus has so far claimed the lives of over 7,000 people in the US and infected over 2,70,000 others.

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On Apr 5, 9 pm, light candles, diya for 9 min to dispel darkness of Coronavirus: PM Modi to nation

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday appealed to the citizens of the nation to switch off lights in their houses and light candles or diyas on April 5 at 9 pm for nine minutes to dispel the darkness and gloom brought by the outbreak of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

In his 11-minute message to the people, the PM termed it as an attempt to show coronavirus, the strength of Indian unity and ‘light’.

“We must all go through this darkness together. Those who are most affected by this are the poor and marginalised. To overcome this darkness, we must all unite to spread the light. Make this darkness of Coronavirus meet the light we all spread,” the Prime Minister said as India completed the first ten days of the 21-day lockdown.

“This Sunday, 5th April we have to challenge the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to introduce it to the power of light,” PM Modi said in an address to the nation.

“We have to take the Mahasankalp (the supreme oath) by 130 crore citizens to new heights. I want your 9 minutes at 9 pm on April 5,” he added.

PM Modi then asked Indians to switch off lights in their homes, reach out from their windows, gates or balconies and light a candle or diya for 9 minutes. Even torches and mobile phone lights would also do.

“Switch off every light in the house, reach to your main gate or balcony and light a candle, diya, torch or your mobile’s flash for 9 minutes,” the Prime Minister said.

He, however, stressed that no one should come out of their homes and maintain social distancing norms during the excercise.

“At no point of time in this exercise should we come out on the streets. Maintaining social distancing is the most important thing to do,” he said.

“There is no force in the world that is greater than the human spirit, PM Modi said as he concluded his address to the nation and reminded, “April 5 – At 9 pm – For 9 minutes – A gesture of unity and solidarity”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his address by congratulating the people of India for their “unprecedented discipline” during the first ten days of the 21-day Coronavirus lockdown.

He also said that Janata Curfew on March 22, was a success and had set an example for the world to follow. He claimed that various other countries were following the idea to thank health workers, other people involved in essential services during these hard times.

PM Modi had first declared last evening that he would share a video message this morning but did not specify the subject.

This is the third time the PM has addressed the nation since the Coronavirus pandemic became a cause for serious concern in India.

In his first address on March 19, PM Modi announced ‘Janata Curfew’ in the entire nation on March 22, from 7 am to 9 pm — a first step to avoid public gatherings and to prevent the spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

Then, in his second address on March evening, the Prime Minister announced the unprecedented 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

So far, India has more than 2,000 Coronavirus cases, including 56 deaths.

In the first video conference with all Chief Ministers amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked the head of the states to be alert and stressed on the formulation of a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of population once the nationwide lockdown concludes.

“Our goal is to ensure minimum loss of life:,” said Modi during video interaction with the chief ministers on tackling COVID-19.

He said it “can’t be business as usual” after the lockdown and certain safeguards would have to be taken.

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