World Pakistan imposes Eid lockdown as COVID cases soar
Pakistan tightens borders as Covid-19 cases soar
Pakistan has closed land crossings with Iran and Afghanistan for travellers and slashed international flights as the government warned of a "critical" few weeks ahead in the battle against Covid-19. Flights and land crossings with neighbouring India -- reeling from a devastating outbreak with hundreds of thousands of new cases a day -- were closed before the pandemic because of political tensions. Video: India's virus crisis escalates (AFP) Your browser does not support this video Impoverished Pakistan is struggling to contain a third wave of infections, with more than 800,000 cases and 18,000 deaths declared.
Pakistan on Saturday began a nine-day shutdown affecting travel and tourist hotspots in a bid to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Already battling a third wave of infections and increasingly nervous about the crisis across the border in India, the government has imposed the most severe restrictions since a one-month lockdown in April last year.
Mosques full despite Pakistan's Covid third wave
Schools and restaurants have closed, shops pull down their shutters early every evening, and the military has been mobilised to combat the spread of coronavirus -- but night after night the faithful flock to mosques across Pakistan for prayers. Anxious over the virus's deadly rampage through neighbouring India, officials have steadily tightened restrictions and banned travel during the upcoming Eid holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan -- but they have turned a blind eye to religious gatherings © Aamir QURESHI Covid wards in several cities have been full or close to capacity for weeks as a more contagious variant of the virus has
“From today all businesses across the country will be closed. People will not be allowed to go into the markets to do their shopping for Eid,” Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from the capital, Islamabad.
Hyder said the Pakistani government feared that it will not be able to cope due to a possible lack of ventilators and oxygen if the “situation sees the likes of which India is confronting”.
Asad Umar, the planning minister who is responsible for leading Pakistan’s pandemic response, said Pakistan was facing a “dangerous situation”.
“These measures have been necessitated by the extremely dangerous situation which has been created in the region with the spread of virulent mutations of the virus,” Umar said on Twitter, adding the country needed to “unite”.
Pakistan imposes Eid holiday shutdown as virus cases soar
Pakistan on Saturday began a nine-day shutdown affecting travel and tourist hotspots in a bid to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Already battling a third wave of infections and increasingly nervous about the crisis across the border in India, the government has imposed the most severe restrictions since a one-month lockdown in April last year. "These measures have been necessitated by the extremely dangerous situation which has been created in the region with the spread of virulent mutations of the virus," tweeted planning minister Asad Umar, who has been leading the government response to the outbreak.
Eid, which comes at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, usually sees the mass movement of people around the country and tourist spots crowded with Pakistanis.
Last year the country saw a spike in cases in the weeks after the celebrations.
Businesses, hotels and restaurants, as well as markets and parks will be closed, while public transport between provinces and within cities has been halted.
The military has been mobilised to monitor the restrictions.
Mosques, however, will remain open. Authorities fear curbs on places of worship could ignite confrontation in the deeply conservative Muslim republic.
Impoverished Pakistan has recorded more than 850,000 infections and 18,600 deaths, but with limited testing and a deprived healthcare sector, many fear the true extent of the disease is much worse.
Pakistan has seen a daily death toll of more than 100 in recent weeks.
Where will the next COVID hotspots be?
Dr Khan explains how India’s troubles are spreading across the sub-continent, while pregnant women are dying in Brazil.India has seen a rapid and well-publicised increase in COVID cases. After a stepwise easing of restrictions across the country throughout 2020, India’s leader, President Narendra Modi, declared the country was in the “end game” of the pandemic. Soon after this bold statement, large religious and political gatherings were allowed to take place with little regard for social distancing and, inevitably, cases began to soar. On May 3, India hit the grim milestone of 20 million COVID cases, though the true number is thought to be much higher.
Health officials have warned that hospitals are operating at close to capacity and they have rushed to increase the number of intensive care beds.
International flights have been slashed and border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan closed, except for trade.
Flights and land crossings with neighbouring India – reeling from a devastating outbreak with hundreds of thousands of new cases a day – were closed before the pandemic because of political tensions.
Since last year, Pakistan has reported nearly 18,800 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 854,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
COVAX doses arrive
Pakistan, which has so far vaccinated only a fraction of its population, received its first batch of 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses on Saturday under the delayed COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme for lower-income countries.
The prime minister’s special aide on health, Faisal Sultan, asked people over the age of 40 to register for shots and said the Pakistani government would soon be able to expand its immunisation programme to other age groups.
A statement issued by Pakistan’s National Command Operation Center said that 1,238,400 vaccine doses arrived in the first COVAX allocation while another batch of 1,236,000 was expected to arrive in a few days.
Pakistan has until May 6 administered just over 3.32 million doses across the country, which has a population of more than 200 million.
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