06/12/2020, 15.45
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A new wave of COVID-19 infections hits Pakistan after lockdown lifted

by Shafique Khokhar

Social confinement has been replaced by weaker preventive measures. The World Health Organisation calls for a return to tougher measures. Last Tuesday, more than 5,000 cases were reported in a single day; in late May, they were around 1,700. Punjab police use stun batons against people who fail to respect restrictive measures. For one activist, the government’s approach is confusing.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan is experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 cases. The rise began in early June, after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan replaced the lockdown with less restrictive measures.

So far, 125,521 cases have been reported in the country with 2,463 deaths. On Tuesday, 5,385 cases were reported against 1,700 per day in late May.

In a letter sent to Pakistan’s provincial governments on Sunday, World Health Organisation (WHO) Pakistan chief Palitha Mahipala recommended re-imposing some of the lifted restrictions to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to the UN health agency, Pakistan's rate of coronavirus-positive patients was too high (24 per cent), indicating that not enough testing was being done.

However, Prime Minister Khan has expressed his opposition to re-imposing a lockdown and has defended his decision to allow markets and public departments to reopen.

His political adversaries and many independent observers are instead critical of his response to the crisis, demanding that some restrictions be re-imposed.

“The situation is alarming. Steps should be taken immediately to separate the infected from the rest of the population,” said Daniel Bashir, a young Catholic doctor, speaking to AsiaNews.

For Pakistani authorities, if people follow the new guidelines, the pandemic should be contained.

Provincial administrations have instead increased controls. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the authorities closed 1,715 shops. Elsewhere, tougher measures have been used. In Faisalabad (Punjab) police have used stun batons against people for failing to respect anti-coronavirus restrictions.

For many Pakistanis, such actions violate the country’s constitution and the UN convention against torture, of which Pakistan is a signatory.

Robin Daniel, chairman of the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan and interfaith Dialogue, slammed the police for using violence against people who do not respect the safety distance or do not wear a mask.

In his view, the government’s anti-pandemic policy is confusing and has led to the current unacceptable situation.

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