A policeman (right) checks the body temperature of a man on his arrival for Friday prayers in Lahore. Arif Ali/AFP
Pakistan has begun lifting the weeks-long lockdown that was enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as authorities reported another big jump of 1,637 cases which rose to 27,474 with 24 new fatalities.
Army soldiers who manned roadside checkpoints along with police since late March when the lockdown was enforced, were seen leaving for their barracks in the capital, Islamabad and elsewhere in the country on Saturday.
The latest development comes two days after the prime minister Imran Khan said he was ending the lockdown in phases because his government was unable to financially help those millions of people who rely on their daily earnings to survive and feed their families.
Khan says he tried to financially help the country’s poor amid the pandemic, but he was unable to support all those who lost their jobs due to the lockdown. So far, Khan has bowed to pressure from the country’s powerful clerical establishment by allowing mosques to remain open, even as the number of new cases has recently increased.
So far, Pakistan has reported 618 coronavirus-related deaths, although it had its first case in February.
Pakistan has warned that it will reimpose the lockdown if people do not adhere to social distancing guidelines, which experts say could cause a peak later this month. Although Pakistan has lifted curbs on several economic sectors and allowed business activities to reopen, schools will remain closed until July 15.
On April 19, PIA flight PK-8220 will depart for Dubai from Islamabad, while PIA’s return flight PK-8221 will arrive at Multan airport from Dubai on the same day. The PIA flight PK-8223 will go from Islamabad to Dubai and will depart from Dubai to Faisalabad on April 19.
Millions of rupees have been spent by the government on transportation, lodging and provision of food to Pakistanis who came back since the outbreak of the coronavirus and are being kept at quarantine centres in the federal capital.
Sayyed Haleem Shah, a Pakistani international PhD student at Tianjin University China, considers himself lucky to witness the steps taken by the Chinese government and its people to combat the coronavirus. He says, “It should indeed be a great source of inspiration for the whole world, once the epidemic is over, that the stories of the unsung heroes will be heard."
Pakistan also reported 4,734 new virus cases, raising its overall infections to 93,983. With the latest 97 virus-related deaths, the highest 24-hour increase to its fatalities, as authorities urged volunteers to motivate people to adhere to social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the virus.
With the Hajj Committee announcing full refunds of the fees for the ensuing Hajj 2020 season, the pilgrimage dreams of thousands of Muslim faithful are shattered.
The group were travelling through Badakshan province to assist security forces in the area, officials said. A local commander was among the fatalities, provincial governor's spokesman Sanaullah Rohani told the media.