Pakistanis flocks to shops ahead of week-long lockdown

The country reported 120 deaths and 4,105 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day.

Virus Outbreak Pakistan
Virus Outbreak Pakistan

Pakistan has reported 120 deaths and 4,105 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day ahead of a planned closure of all business and transport for a week starting from Saturday.

Before the lockdown began, thousands of people in every city and town across the country thronged to markets and shopping centres to stock up for Eid al-Fitr, which Muslims celebrate at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Many did not wear face masks.

Traders’ associations have said they intend to defy the closure.

New restrictions also include closure of all tourist resorts, beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping centres, parks and other public places to try to control the spread of coronavirus.

Virus Outbreak Pakistan
A deserted market in Peshawar after Pakistan’s government announced strict new Covid-19 restrictions for a week (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)

The commissioner of the capital, Islamabad, earlier said the administration will strictly implement the government plan, which applies from May 8 to 16.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on health, Dr Faisal Sultan, advised people to stay at home and avoid rushing to markets.

Pakistan is currently in the middle of a third wave which authorities say is worse than the previous ones.

Since last year, Pakistan has reported 18,797 deaths from Covid-19 among 854,240 cases.

The country has now received its first supply of Covid-19 vaccines through the UN-backed Covax initiative – more than 1.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The prime minister’s special aide on health, Dr Faisal Sultan, asked people over age 40 to register for jabs and said the Pakistani government would soon be able to expand its immunisation programme to other age groups.

A statement issued by Pakistan’s National Command and Operations Center said that 1,238,400 vaccine doses arrived in the first Covax allocation while another batch of 1,236,000 was expected to arrive in a few days.

The delivery of first consignment of vaccine is the product of an unprecedented global partnership to ensure no country is left behind in the global race to fight the coronavirus, said Alexa Reynolds, the senior manager for Pakistan from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the partners in the Covax initiative.

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