ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s outgoing finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has tested positive for COVID-19, the third senior government official to do so in 24 hours, a week after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced he himself had contracted the virus.
“Just found out that Dr Hafeez [Shaikh] has tested positive for Covid-19. I pray for his swift recovery and good health,” Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar wrote on Twitter.
Shaikh was removed from his post as finance minister on Monday, over concerns about rising inflation in the country. Also on Monday, President Arif Alvi as well as Defence Minister Pervez Khattak announced they had both tested positive for COVID-19.
Alvi oversaw an annual military parade in Islamabad on March 25, where Khattak was also present. The parade was smaller than in previous years over COVID-19 fears, but some 5,000 people still attended, including senior civilian officials as well as the heads of Pakistan’s armed forces.
Khan has been criticized for holding an indoor in-person meeting with some cabinet officials while he was still recovering from the virus. .
Pakistan recorded 100 deaths in the last 24 hours, and 4,084 new infections, with a national positivity rate of 8.8% – meaning for every 100 individuals tested, 8.8% tested positive for coronavirus.
The country has recorded 14,356 deaths and 663,200 infections since the pandemic began. Around two-thirds of ventilators and 80% of oxygenated beds are occupied in hospitals in major cities, according to officials.
“We are increasing the capacity of our hospitals…but no matter how much we increase capacity, if cases continue to rise as they are currently, it will create pressure that will not be easy for our hospitals to handle,” Health Minister Faisal Sultan told state TV on Tuesday during a visit to major hospitals in the capitol Islamabad.
The federal government has put restrictions on gatherings, including all types of marriages, to go into effect next week, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
(Additional reporting by Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)