Pakistan on Saturday began a nine-day closure affecting travel and tourist hotspots in a request to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Already struggling with the third wave of infections and especially nervous about crisis across the Indian border, the government imposed the most severe bans from a one -month lockdown in April last year.
“From now on all businesses across the country will be closed. People will not be allowed to go to the market to shop for Eid,” Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from the capital Islamabad.
Hyder said the Pakistani government feared it would not be able to cope due to a possible shortage of fans and oxygen if “the situation appears to be what India wants.”
Asad Umar, the planning minister responsible for spearheading Pakistan’s pandemic response, said Pakistan was facing a “dangerous situation”.
“These measures are necessary in the most dangerous situation created in the region with the spread of dangerous virus mutations,” Umar said on Twitter, adding the country needs to “unite”.
The need for caution is clear. The danger is higher than ever and knocking on our doors. The country needs to unite in response and regain what was achieved in the first wave, for which we have received praise from the world. Inshallah we will do it again, together
– Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) May 8, 2021
Eid, which comes at the end of the Muslim holy month, always sees the movement of people across the country and tourist areas crowded in Pakistan.
Last year the country saw an increase in cases in the weeks after the celebration.
Businesses, hotels and restaurants, as well as markets and parks will be closed, while public transportation between provinces and within towns will be halted.
The military was mobilized to enforce the bans.
However, mosques will continue to be open. Authorities fear blocking places of worship could spark confrontation in the most conservative Muslim republic.
Suffering 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 even worse.
Pakistan has seen a daily death toll of more than 100 in recent weeks.
Health officials warn that hospitals are operating as close as possible and they are rushing to increase the number of intensive care beds.
International travel was abandoned and crossings of the borders with Iran and Afghanistan were closed, except for trade.
Travel and land crossings in neighboring India – which is emerging from a devastating outbreak with hundreds of thousands of new cases a day – were shut down before the epidemic due to 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.
Doses of COVAX arrived
Pakistan, which has so far vaccinated only a fraction of its population, received the first phase of 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses on Saturday under the delayed COVAX vaccine distribution plan for lower -income countries.
The special assistant to the prime minister of health, Faisal Sultan, asked people over the age of 40 to register for the shots and said the Pakistani government would soon expand the vaccination program to other groups in age.
A statement released by Pakistan’s National Command Operation Center said 1,238,400 doses of the vaccine had arrived in the first batch of COVAX while another batch of 1,236,000 was expected to arrive in a few days.
Pakistan as of May 6 was serving more than 3.32 million doses nationwide, with a population of over 200 million.