COVID-19 in Southeast Asia
Pakistan courting disaster with its coronavirus strategy

Pakistan has recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus cases in a single-day – taking the total number of reported infections to over 82,000. Reports suggest actual cases in the country could be in their millions. Haroon Janjua reports from Islamabad

Pakistani media recently reported that a provincial health department's finding revealed that the number of COVID-19 cases only in the city of Lahore could be around 700,000.

"No workplace and residential area… is disease-free" in the provincial capital, according to the report, which was presented to Punjab province's Chief Minister Usman Buzdar almost two weeks ago.

According to Dawn newspaper, the health department advised the chief minister to immediately enforce a complete lockdown for "at least four weeks", adding that asymptomatic cases became the "main source of infection and local transmission" in the city.

"Any subsequent decision of lifting, relaxing or doing away with lockdown measures should be taken after reviewing the results of smart sampling conducted with regular intervals till the final tapering down of the virus", the report recommended.

Even the reported cases in Pakistan have seen a huge spike in the past few weeks.

Yet, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has rejected calls for a complete lockdown. Instead, his government has lifted all public restrictions in an apparent attempt to revive the economy.
"Unfortunately, the [previous] lockdown has already hit the poor people. We can no longer afford that," Khan told media in the capital Islamabad. "Therefore, except for a few sectors, all other sectors will stay open," Khan said, adding that the government wants to "save people from coronavirus and hunger simultaneously."
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