Islamabad: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Monday that his government will end several months of limiting coronavirus, even when cases of the disease appear likely to be much higher than previously thought.
In a televised address, Khan said Pakistan was unable to close down business and said nearly all sectors – including domestic tourism – would be reopened.
His announcement came shortly after an alarming government report leaked to the media that showed new cases of the corona virus in the eastern city of Lahore were estimated at around 670,800.
“There are no workplaces and residential areas in any city (in the Lahore region) free of disease,” the report notes.
Officially, around 72,000 people tested positive, with 1,543 deaths, throughout Pakistan. The daily rate of new cases is accelerating.
The report by Punjab health officials, which was seen and confirmed by AFP, cited a limited random sample test that found that in some parts of the city of around 11 million people, nearly 15 percent of the population was positive.
“I ask all of you to follow the SOP (standard operating procedure), because we open everything up to the requirements of this SOP,” Khan said in his speech, warning people would suffer if they did not take preventative measures.
The Khan government has struggled to present a cohesive national strategy to control the corona virus.
Khan was reluctant to call for a massive lockdown, so instead of the four provinces the country ordered its own closure.
“Unfortunately, the way lockouts occur, it is very painful for our lower class,” Khan said, adding that lockdowns have affected the collection of state tax revenue.
He defended his decision to reopen, arguing the locking did not stop the virus.
“You have to understand this coronavirus, it will not go away unless a vaccine is found. We have to live with coronavirus. The whole world has reached this conclusion,” Khan said, pointing to easing restrictions in US states.
“Today, America, the richest country in the world, where 100,000 people have died of corona, they have also decided that their economy will collapse if they (continue) lockdown,” Khan said.
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