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Lockdown returns in Pakistan-administered Kashmir

Authorities announced decision in response to growing COVID-19 case numbers, violations of health guidelines

Aamir Latif   | 04.10.2020
Lockdown returns in Pakistan-administered Kashmir File Photo

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan-administered Kashmir reimposed lockdown measures on Sunday to help curb surging novel coronavirus infections, as well as violations of health guidelines.

The prime minister of the region, also known as Azad Kashmir, said on Twitter that his government had made the decision in an attempt to prevent the re-emergence of the virus cases in the territory.

"I have asked the authorities to chalk out the [lockdown] parameters within the next two days. Beware, when the world's top economies could not counter the pandemic, then how can we do that with limited resources?" said Raja Farooq Haider.

"Before the situation goes out of control, we have to take strict actions," he added, urging compliance with safety protocols.

The move came after the coronavirus case rate surged to 8.3% in Azad Kashmir over the past few days -- the highest in Pakistan.

Authorities have also imposed a "smart" lockdown in some parts of the country's commercial hub Karachi amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Imran Khan warned of a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the South Asian country in the Winter.

"Compared to some other states, Allah has been kind to us in [Pakistan] & spared us worst effects of COVID-19," said Khan on Twitter. "I urge everyone to wear face masks in public to avoid a spike."

All offices and educational institutions must ensure masks are worn, Khan cautioned.

COVID-19 cases have dropped considerably in Pakistan over the past months, prompting the government to completely lift a months-long lockdown.

The number of cases dropped from nearly 7,000 per day to only 400, with daily fatalities hovering in the single digits.

However, additional cases have doubled over the past two weeks after schools reopened last month.

The country has recorded a total of 314,610 cases so far, of which 298,968 have recovered, according to Health Ministry data, while the death toll stands at 6,513.

Officials are currently following a "mini-smart lockdown" strategy. Instead of closing entire streets or shopping centers, only individual houses or workplaces with reported infections are sealed. 

Slim chances of second wave

The latest study by Pakistan's leading blood diseases institute suggested last month that there was a slim chance of a second wave in the country of the coronavirus, further backing the government's policy of reopening businesses.

The cross-sectional study between May and July at the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) in Karachi was published by Oxford University Press's Journal of Public Health.

Titled Challenges in acquiring herd immunity for COVID-19, the study conducted by a team of microbiologists, hematologists and pathologists led by Dr. Samreen Zaidi includes nearly 1,700 people from healthcare, community and industrial workers.

According to Zaidi, Pakistan has "almost" achieved herd immunity, indicating that there are low chances of a second wave of the pandemic.

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