Provincial authorities have imposed a partial lockdown in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, including the commercial hub of Karachi and other urban centres, amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown began on Saturday and is set to last until August 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.
On Friday, Sindh’s Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital.
The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
“I know people will not be comfortable with lockdown, but it is inevitable we have to bring the numbers down,” Shah told a news conference.
The Sindh government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6pm (13:00 GMT).
All transport between cities is halted and public buses are not operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.
Restaurants will only be allowed delivery. No takeaway, dine-in or outside will be allowed, a handout by the chief minister’s office said.
Health facilities including vaccination centres will remain open, it said, adding that provincial government offices will be closed during the week.
A day earlier, Pakistan’s federal government announced a ban on entry to public offices, schools, restaurants, public transport, shopping malls and aeroplanes without COVID vaccination certificates.
During the last 24 hours, Pakistan reported 86 deaths, including 14 in Karachi, as coronavirus positivity in Sindh’s capital reached about 25 percent.
Shah added that Karachi was seeing 20 percent cases for the past few weeks, but following Eid, the virus also spread to rural areas.
Out of a population of 220 million, more than 27.8 million have received one vaccine shot, but only 5.9 million have been fully vaccinated, according to the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), a military-run body that oversees pandemic response.