Lockdown extended in Pakistan
Pakistan on Friday extended until May 9 the ongoing lockdown aimed at stemming the fast-increasing coronavirus cases in the country.
Asad Umar, Minister for Planning and Development, announced the decision taken by the National Coordination Committee, a government body formed to deal with the coronavirus crisis which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The coming few weeks are crucial [concerning the coronavirus outbreak]. That’s why the government has decided to further extend the lockdown,” said Umar, who is also the head of the government’s anti-COVID-19 campaign.
Last month, Pakistan had imposed a countrywide lockdown closing down shops, markets, shopping centers, and government, and private offices except for emergency service, in a desperate move to curb the surging COVID-19 cases.
On April 14, Khan had announced a two-week extension in the countrywide lockdown until April 30 easing restrictions on several “low-risk” industries, including construction, agriculture, e-commerce, paper and packaging, and others to resume the business activities and to stem a deepening economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The country’s key medical associations have warned the government of serious consequences if a “complete” lockdown is not imposed.
Addressing a news conference in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar on Friday, representatives of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Pakistan Islamic Medical
Association, and Young Doctors Association, express concerns over the government’s decision to allow the partial resumption of business activities, and prayers at mosques.
“Allowing the mass gatherings at mosques or markets may lead to an unmanageable situation as the country’s weak health system is already overburdened,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, the secretary-general of PMA, said.
The number of novel coronavirus cases in Pakistan has risen to 11,155 with 642 new cases over the past 24 hours, the country’s Health Ministry said.
Another 13 patients died due to the virus across the country in a day, raising the toll to 237. Some 2,527 have recovered so far.
Officials say more than 11,000 Pakistanis have contracted the virus, at least 240 have died and more than 2,500 have recovered since the pandemic hit the South Asian nation of 220 million people in late February.
Federal Minister Asad Umar, who heads the government body dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, told reporters the restrictions on public movements would remain in place until May 9. He cited prevailing concerns that the number of cases could spike in Pakistan in the coming weeks.