Fri, 25 Sep 2020

Pakistan Lifts Lockdowns, Top UN Diplomat Lauds Anti-Virus Gains

Voice of America
11 Aug 2020, 04:05 GMT+10

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Monday removed nearly all of its coronavirus-related lockdowns, citing a sharp decline in new infections and deaths over the past month.

Volkan Bozkir, president-elect of the United Nations General Assembly, has endorsed the country's gains in the fight against the pandemic.

Outbreaks of the novel coronavirus spread throughout the South Asian nation of about 220 million in late February, prompting fears of an imminent health disaster in the country with its traditionally neglected health care system.

In mid-March, Prime Minister Imran Khan's government closed all schools, banned public gatherings and transport links, locked the national economy, sealed land borders and limited international flights. Restrictions on certain sectors have since been gradually eased to restore economic activities.

On Monday, the government reopened all sectors and outlined strict guidelines on maintaining social distancing, avoiding big gatherings and wearing masks to help sustain the national gains against the pandemic. Educational institutions and wedding halls will remain closed until mid-September.

Pakistan has reported nearly 285,000 infections of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including more than 6,000 deaths. Almost 92% of patients have recovered. Fewer than 550 new cases and 15 deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, a decline of almost 82% from a peak of close to 7,000 new cases a day.

Khan attributed the success to his government's policies, including instituting "smart lockdowns" to focus only on the worst-hit areas, instead of completely shutting down Pakistan, which he said would have devastating consequences for a third of the population that lives below the poverty line.

"Pakistan is on a vertical downward trend...We feel that we have managed to get to a point where the first wave is close to over for us," said Moeed Yusuf, an assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on national security.

Addressing an online forum arranged by Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank on Monday, Yusuf did not rule out a second wave of infections, saying the government was working to prevent it.

"We were worried in June that we were going to be flooded and we were getting to that point. We have got empty hospitals now," Yusuf told an online forum arranged by Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank.

While political opponents harshly criticized Khan for allegedly mishandling the health crisis, international observers have endorsed the government's COVID-19 measures.

"Pakistan has been a good example for the world with its polices, which handled the pandemic related policy very well," Bozkir told reporters in Islamabad after his meetings with Khan and other top officials Monday.

"Figures show that Pakistan has done better than many other countries in the world, and I am happy to observe it also here with my own eyes," Bozkir said.

The Turkish diplomat will travel to New York next week to begin his new position.

Pakistan's success in controlling the pandemic comes while officials in neighboring India have reported 2.2 million infections and more than 44,380 deaths.

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