Pakistan braces for virus surge as top court orders restrictions lifted

Peoples walk along Raja Bazar ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in, in Rawalpindi on May 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Pakistan braces for virus surge as top court orders restrictions lifted

  • Supreme Court said on Monday that coronavirus is 'not a pandemic in Pakistan'
  • With the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holidays approaching, shops have been drawing massive crowds

KARACHI: Provincial governments and doctors warn that coronavirus infections will surge in Pakistan and overwhelm the health system, following the Supreme Court's decision to lift some of the remaining restrictions imposed on businesses to slow the outbreak.

The court ordered the government on Monday to reopen shopping malls and allow businesses to operate on weekends. It said that the virus outbreak "apparently is not a pandemic in Pakistan" and questioned why fighting it was "swallowing so much money."

With the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holidays approaching, shops have been drawing massive crowds, which local authorities fear they will not be able to control following the court's order.

"We believe that if people continue to violate standard operating procedures (SOPs), it will aggravate the situation, lead to a surge in cases and collapse of the health system," Sindh Education and Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News on Tuesday, adding that the court has barred the authorities from sealing markets and imposing penalties on those who violate the SOPs.  

"It makes the administration powerless in implementing protective measures," he said. 

Liaquat Shahwani, spokesman of the Balochistan government, said that authorities in his province had already eased restrictions before the court's decision and the enforcement of virus precautions has been difficult as neither the traders nor their customers would obey. 

"We fear that opening bazaars and shopping malls will increase the infection rate, which is growing each day," he said, "But we have no option, as while stemming the virus is necessary, it is also necessary that people can earn to buy food."

"We respect the decision of the apex court," he added.

Doctors, meanwhile, say they have been overburdened by the outbreak and are increasingly falling victim to the virus. 

“More than 1,100 health officials have to stay at their homes after contracting the coronavirus. Health experts foresee a major surge in infections as the SOPs are not followed," Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), told Arab News. 

He said that Pakistan's current infection figures are not reflective of the situation on the ground.

On Tuesday, Pakistan reported nearly 44,000 COVID-19 cases and over 939 deaths. 

"We are inching 50,000 cases which is very high, but the real figures may be several times higher than that," Sajjad said, as the country of 210 million has so far tested only 400,300 people.

He added that the court's decision has shifted the responsibility to handle the outbreak from the health sector to the government and judiciary.


Shaheen Afridi upstages Taylor's ton as Pakistan beats Zimbabwe in first ODI

Updated 30 October 2020

Shaheen Afridi upstages Taylor's ton as Pakistan beats Zimbabwe in first ODI

  • Zimbabwe lost by 26 runs when it was bowled out for 255 in 49.4 overs
  • Afridi outperformed everyone with 5-49

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan overcame Brendan Taylor’s century thanks to fast bowler Shaheen Afridi’s 5-49 to beat Zimbabwe by 26 runs in the first one-day international on Friday.
Taylor’s 112 off 117 balls — his 11th ODI hundred — ended up in a losing cause as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 255 in 49.4 overs.
Afridi was well supported by Wahab Riaz, who claimed 4-41.
In Pakistan’s first home international with no spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions at Pindi Cricket Stadium, left-handed batsmen Haris Sohail (71) and Imam-ul-Haq (58) propped up their team’s total of 281-8.
The three-match ODI series is part of the new World Cup Super League. Seven of the 13 teams in the league will directly qualify for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
Taylor kept Zimbabwe in the hunt by hitting 11 fours and three sixes until Afridi returned in the 47th over and had him caught at mid-off. Zimbabwe lost its last five wickets for only 15 runs in the space of 18 balls.
“Pakistan’s bowlers' skill level at the death made it difficult for us," Taylor said.
On being named player of the match, he added, “I feel very lucky to get this man of the match award as I feel Shaheen should have got it. You’re up against a very skillful attack at the death and they were too good at the end."
Taylor and Wesley Madhevere (55) shared a 119-run, fifth-wicket stand that put Zimbabwe’s chase back on track after Afridi and Riaz reduced Zimbabwe to 115-4 in the 27th over.
But once Riaz broke the partnership by clean bowling Madhevere, Afridi followed up with the key dismissal of Taylor and swung the game back in Pakistan's favor.
“He (Taylor) played an outstanding innings, but I had confidence in Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz,” Babar Azam said after winning his first ODI as Pakistan captain. “Once Shaheen had Taylor’s wicket, I was sure we are going to win the game.”
Earlier, Zimbabwe's players didn’t show any rustiness despite this being their first international match since March as they tied down Pakistan’s much-fancied stroke-players.
Left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro (2-31) and fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani (2-39), who is making a comeback after two years out, were the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers. Muzarabani got Babar caught behind on 19.
Imam survived a television referral for lbw on 11 and went on to hit six fours. However, soon after completing his half-century he fell to a bizarre run out when he and Sohail ended up at the striker’s end.
Sohail departed in the 42nd over after hitting six fours and two sixes when offspinner Sikander Raza had him caught behind. Sohail didn’t return to the field during Zimbabwe’s chase.
Pakistan made 90 runs in the last 10 overs to post a competitive total.