ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's decision to relax COVID-19 restrictions may lead to a third coronavirus wave, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) warned on Sunday as infection figures are surging again.
Pakistan reported 1,780 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases in over a month, health ministry data showed on Sunday. The total number of infections rose to 590,508, with 13,205 deaths.
The increase in COVID-19 cases comes after the National Command and Operation Center, which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, on Feb. 24 eased most of virus-related restrictions, allowing commercial activities and workplaces to function at full strength. Regular five-day classes restarted at schools from March 1.
"This could lead, god forbid, to a third wave of COVID-19 in the country,” PMA secretary general Dr. Qaiser Sajjad told Arab News.
He added that the decision to lift the restrictions now was too hasty and should take place after most Pakistanis have been vaccinated.
"We suggested that after vaccination of at least 70 percent of the population, (the government) could start lifting restrictions."
The country of 220 million is however short of reaching the suggested vaccination rate.
Pakistan began its COVID-19 vaccination program last month with 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. Healthcare workers are being vaccinated in the first phase of the drive. Only 230,000 frontline health workers had received a shot so far.
The vaccination of citizens above the age of 60 is going to start on March 10, Planning Minister Asad Umar announced in a tweet on Sunday.
He added that more details would be shared on Monday.
About 5.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines are expected to arrive by the end of March.
Pakistan has so far approved China’s Sinopharm and CanSinoBIO vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine developed with Oxford University and Russia’s Sputnik V for emergency use.