Pakistan rules out lockdown despite dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has ruled out a complete lockdown and has decided to stick to the smart lockdown strategy amid the surging second wave of coronavirus infections in the country.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for ensuring a balance between virus control measures and livelihoods, and ramping up hospital care to deal with a possible health emergency with an additional increase in cases.

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Highest cases in 3 months

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Pakistan reported 1,313 coronavirus cases and 18 deaths during the last 24 hours – making it the new highest single-day rise in virus cases in the last three months.

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The country last witnessed a similar number of cases on July 25 when 1487 COVID-19 cases were recorded. With the latest cases, Pakistan’s tally for confirmed cases has reached 337,573 of which 94 per cent have recovered.

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Smart lockdown policy to continue

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In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Khan said the country could not afford another lockdown and closure of businesses. Minister Asad Umar, who is spearheading the fight against coronavirus, said the government would continue its smart lockdown policy to deal with the second wave without putting additional pressure on citizens.

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Pakistan’s smart lockdown strategy initiated to strike a balance between lives and livelihood proved successful in tackling the cases. He also cited a Bloomberg report indicating that Pakistan’s decision to ease pandemic restrictions early helped the country’s exports emerge stronger than other South Asian countries.

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Virus resurgence

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Pakistan was one of the few countries where coronavirus cases significantly declined, prompting the country to lift most restrictions by mid-August. However, the country has recorded a steady increase in coronavirus cases since October.

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In an attempt to contain the virus, Pakistan last week made it mandatory for citizens to wear masks in public places. The government also announced that all parks and entertainment venues be shut by 6pm and shopping centers, restaurants and banquet halls by 10 pm. All provinces have been asked to ensure the compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC).

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Pakistan’s NCOC has also approved the use of antigen testing in addition to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. “This is part of a strategy to increase the level of testing. The symptomatic cases will all still be administered PCR tests. The decision is in line with the guidelines issued by the WHO,” said Asad Umar.

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Pakistan has so far conducted 4.5 million coronavirus tests with an average 28,000 tests per day since October.

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