In an alarming development, Pakistan has reported its highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in a single day since the pandemic struck the South Asian nuclear state in March, prompting health experts to call for a “strict” lockdown to contain it. Many feel that this increase in coronavirus cases in Pakistan is due to the recent ease in lockdown restrictions.
Earlier in May, the government of Pakistan had ended a lockdown that had been in place since mid-March, prompting fierce criticism domestically and internationally. Unlike Britain, which is undergoing a transition toward return of economic activity in phases, Pakistan opened all business in the span of a week, which has further complicated the coronavirus situation in Pakistan.
According to the Health Ministry, a record 3,039 new cases, and 88 deaths from the disease have been reported in the country over the past 24 hours.
Steep increase in coronavirus cases in Pakistan
The country has recorded 223 deaths in the past three days, and over 8,000 new infections, with health experts warning of a steep rise in the number of cases in coming days.
Pakistan Coronavirus Update: Once again, Pakistan saw its deadliest day (92 deaths) and highest single day rise in cases (3,039) on Saturday to see the death toll stand at 1,517 and total cases at 69,496. There are 42,706 active cases, with 25,273 recoveries (36.3%). pic.twitter.com/z8ZcO5HueW
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) May 31, 2020
On Saturday, the tally of confirmed cases reached 69,224 with 1,483 deaths so far.
According to the official statistics, the southern Sindh province tops the tally with 27,360 cases, followed by the northeastern Punjab where 25,056 people have so far been infected with the virus.
Ease in lockdown contributing to increase in coronavirus cases in Pakistan
The government has declared wearing of face mask mandatory at the public places in a desperate attempt to stem the fast-expanding pandemic.
In the capital Islamabad, violators will be fined, and could be sent to the jail, according to an official notification.
However, founder of Islamabad Chamber for Small Traders and former President ICCI Shahid Rasheed Butt on Saturday said a large number of masses and the businesspersons seem unconcerned about precautionary measures that is resulting in the spread of coronavirus. Traders are not wearing masks and gloves while disallowing the employees to observe SOPs which is very worrying, he noted.
The business leader said that the retailers should not entertain customers not wearing masks while the government should immediately seal shops where SOPs are being violated.
Recently, the Sindh government had decided to allow shopping malls in the province to open for business. According to the notification, all shopping malls would remain open under SOPs and their timings would be from 8 am to 5 pm.
Shopping malls would be able to operate even on the weekends, however, food courts, beauty salons and play areas inside them were to remain closed. Commissioner Karachi had even issued SOPs for shopping malls to operate.
The government of Sindh province — the worst hit by the pandemic — now suggests a 14-day “effective” lockdown to slow down the pace of the rising number of cases.
Leadership’s unwillingness to impose lockdown
“Only an effective lockdown throughout the country for 14 days can stem the rising wave of coronavirus cases. But the federal government seems to be in no mood to go for that,” Mutaza Wahab, a spokesman for the Sindh government told reporters, referring to lifting of lockdown restrictions, including resumption of train service, and flight operation.
Echoing Wahab’s view, Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, the secretary general of Pakistan Medical Association — a nationwide body of health professionals — said: “The lockdown at this stage can yield some results only if it is enforced across the country under a uniform policy. Otherwise, it will have no impact”.
“And there should be no confusion this time,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s continuous opposition to a complete lockdown.
Globally, more than 6 million cases have been confirmed in 188 countries and regions since the virus emerged in China last year.
The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Dr. Zafar Mirza has said that the prevailing situation of the coronavirus in the country is not disastrous due to the government’s effective measures.
He said the opposition parties instead of doing politics on the deadly virus should suggest measures to prevent its spread. The Special Assistant urged people to follow the Standard Operating Procedure, maintain social distancing, avoid shaking hands, wear masks and gloves to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus.
However, the steady increase in coronavirus cases in Pakistan shows that these precautions are not enough.
Economic impact of coronavirus
The pandemic has killed nearly 370,000 people worldwide, while over 2.58 million people have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University of the US.
According to estimates from the World Trade Organization, world merchandise trade is set to plummet between 13 and 32 percent this year, depending on how quickly the coronavirus is contained and trade can return to pre-crisis levels. “These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that. But a rapid, vigorous rebound is possible,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said.
Having reminded many companies of the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, both the pandemic and the trade war between the U.S. and China could lead companies towards a more domestic approach to production and sourcing, which might result in a sustained reduction of global trade.
Coronavirus in Pakistan: The situation so far
As of today, the number of people infected by the Novel Coronavirus and suffering from the associated disease COVID-19 in Pakistan has crossed 72,000. There have been 1,500 deaths associated with the disease. A statistic to take heart from is the fact that 26,000 people suffering from COVID-19 have recovered.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk