ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Authorities in Pakistan have stepped up enforcement of government safety measures after a rise in the daily number of coronavirus infections pushed total cases to more than 100,000.
Official statistics released on Monday showed 103,671 infections and 2,067 deaths from the virus. Record numbers of new infections over the last 10 days partly reflect increased testing.
The south Asian nation lifted its lockdown last month, putting protocols in place for the reopening of markets, industries and public transport — including mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing.
But Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is in charge of the national response to the pandemic, told a weekend news conference that many markets and shops had been sealed because of non-compliance over the last few days.
“First we educated the masses about the protocols, then we warned them, and now, in the last meeting with the prime minister in the chair, we directed administrations to crack down on places protocols are not being followed,” he said.
Of 23,000 daily tests, more than 1 in 5 have been positive over the last 10 days. Before the lockdown was lifted on May 9, the number of tests finding the coronavirus was approximately 1 in 10, government statistics show.
Graphic – Pakistan coronavirus infections: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qmypmoqropr/pakistan%20data.PNG
Government officials say safety protocols are not being followed, particularly since just before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The decision to lift the lockdown on May 9 despite increasing infections of the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, was prompted by a worsening economic crisis and unemployment.
Pakistan is the 16th country to exceed 100,000 infections, a Reuters tally showed.
Infections among high profile political personalities has also increased in the country, with Minister for Railways Shaikh Rasheed, and former prime minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also testing positive on Monday.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Catherine Evans)