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‘Coronavirus is not a pandemic in the country’: Pakistan’s Supreme Court lifts restrictions, orders all markets to be opened

Doctors in Pakistan have criticised the move to lift curbs that were imposed initially, in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. They fear that it can rapidly transmit the deadly virus and overburden the health sector.

While hearing a suo moto case, a 5-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has reportedly directed all markets and shopping malls to open, amidst the Coronavirus outbreak that has claimed 903 lives and has infected 42,125 people in the country.

The Bench comprising of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, Justices Umar Ata Bandial, Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Sajjad Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed noted that there was ‘no logic’ behind keeping malls closed.

The apex court of Pakistan has also asked the provincial governments to not create hindrance in opening up markets and malls while ensuring implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). The Bench also ruled that keeping markets closed on Saturdays and Sundays was a violation of the Constitution.

Reportedly, the Karachi administration had earlier sealed shops due to overcrowding, after restrictions were eased by the Government. The Supreme Court, however, has now prevented the Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani from sealing shops and instead directed him to implement SOPs.

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The Bench also rebuked Pakistan’s Disaster Management Authority for spending too much money on the Coronavirus. The Court observed, “There are other serious ailments prevailing in the country, from which people are dying daily and those ailments are not being catered and the coronavirus (Covid-19), which apparently is not a pandemic in Pakistan, is swallowing huge money.”

Coronavirus in Pakistan

On Monday, Pakistan reported 1,974 new cases of Coronavirus. According to the Health Ministry, there are 42,125 active cases in the country. A total of 11,922 patients have been recovered while 903 people have lost their lives. The Sindh province has the highest number of cases (16,377), followed by Punjab (6,061).

According to Planning Minister Asad Umar, Pakistan which is currently conducting 25,000 tests per day has a capacity to increase testing up to 30,000 per day. As of May 18, a total of 387,335 tests have been conducted in the country. Transport facilities have been allowed, domestic flight services have been partly allowed. Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has now demanded the resumption of trains.

Doctors Concerned

Doctors in the country have criticised the move to lift curbs that were imposed initially, in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. They fear that it can rapidly transmit the deadly virus and overburden the health sector. “It will definitely lead to an increase in the number of cases, the number of critical cases. “We are concerned about the pressure that will come on the hospitals”, Salman Kazmi, Secretary of Young Doctors’ Association, was quoted as saying.

Pakistan imports medicines from India

Earlier, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government had decided to import much-needed key life-saving drugs and vitamins to the country from India. The list of drugs imported from India included those to prevent or treat tuberculosis, polio, and tetanus. The Pakistan government had decided to suspend all kinds of trade with India, following the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Following the coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry had demanded that the ban on Indian medicines and medicinal raw material should be lifted because the country might face a severe shortage of medicines, especially life-saving drugs. The pharmaceutical body had warned the Imran Khan government that any attempt to disrupt the global supply chains related to the country’s pharma industry will hamper the country’s ability to treat coronavirus cases.

Imran Khan hoped for a monetary relief

In March, the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the international community to consider for a debt waiver for poor and vulnerable countries like his. During the interview with The Associated Press, Khan claimed that the coronavirus will devastate the economies of developing nations, and as a result, richer economies must write off the debts of the world’s poorer countries which includes Pakistan. “My worry is poverty and hunger,” Khan said. “The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with (the coronavirus).”

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