Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has consistently rejected calls for a nationwide lockdown, claiming that an all-out closure of businesses would affect the “25% of the population that lives below the poverty line,” the country's daily wage earners who Khan said would lose their incomes in a heartbeat.
But for all intents and purposes, a lockdown is what seems to be in place in Pakistan:
- All international and domestic flights have been suspended
- Trains are not running
- Highway journeys between provinces are banned
Military steps in: While Khan’s government deals with growing criticism for not shutting down the country soon enough, the hugely popular military has been lauded for stepping in and announcing measures including the suspension of public transport and timed closure of gas stations. Troops have been deployed in all major cities to enforce these measures.
Rising caseload: According to figures released by the country's Ministry of Health, the number of patients diagnosed with coronavirus in Pakistan crossed 1,000 yesterday. Ten days ago that number was at 53. At least seven people are also confirmed dead. All major phone networks have changed their call tunes to messages asking people to wash their hands and state TV has messages in regional languages explaining the importance of social distancing.
Mosques stay open: One of the largest clusters of the virus sprung up in the outskirts of the capital Islamabad, where a large congregation of preachers met, disregarding the government’s requests for three or more people not to gather in a public space.
Medical equipment lacking: Public health specialist Dr. Arshad Altaf told CNN that there are roughly fewer than 3,000 ventilators available in the country, and while China has provided aid worth $4 million to Pakistan, alongside medical face masks and ventilators, this is still not enough to deal with the exponential growth of the virus. Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, which is connected to the military, has taken over the reins in dealing with the crisis and Altaf welcomed the move. “There has to be a multi-pronged effort, the government cannot deal with this alone,” he said.