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Pakistan Extends Coronavirus Lockdown Till May 9; Cases Rise to 11,155

Muslims maintain safe distance as they attend Friday prayer after government limited congregational prayers  in Lahore, Pakistan on Friday.

REUTERS/Mohsin Raza - RC21BG93SIOF

Muslims maintain safe distance as they attend Friday prayer after government limited congregational prayers in Lahore, Pakistan on Friday. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza - RC21BG93SIOF

About 79 per cent of the total coronavirus cases in Pakistan are now locally transmitted, health authorities said.

Pakistan on Friday extended the partial lockdown imposed in the country by another two weeks as the number of people affected by the deadly virus rose to over 11,000.

About 79 per cent of the total coronavirus cases in Pakistan are now locally transmitted, health authorities said.

According to the Ministry of National Health Services, 13 more patients died due to the novel coronavirus, taking the toll to 237 and another 2,527 recovered.

In the last 24 hours, 642 new cases were reported, taking the tally to 11,155 in the country, health officials said.

Punjab reported 4,767 patients, Sindh 3,671, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 1,541, Balochistan 607, Gilgit-Baltistan 300, Islamabad 214 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 55 patients.

So far, 13,365 tests have been done in the country, including 6,839 in the last 24 hours.

The confirmed cases are steadily increasing and the officials have warned that the peak would reach by the end of May or beginning of June.

Addressing the media in Islamabad, Planning Minister Asad Umar said, "It has been decided that the ongoing restrictions will continue till May 9."

He said the decision was taken in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee, which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Friday said that 79 per cent of all cases in the country were due to local transmissions.

The government has decided to introduce a track and trace system under which random testing of people will start in a few days.

The whole situation has changed due to local transmission, it had been decided to change the policy to tackle the issue, Executive Director of the National Institute of Health Professor Aamer Ikram was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

"Earlier most of the cases were being reported in those people who were coming from abroad and even cases of local transmission were being reported among those who had come into contact with foreign travellers. However now a majority of cases are being attributed to local transmission of the virus," he said.

Authorities also urged people to offer prayers at home on Friday when big congregations are held in mosques.

Pakistan has allowed conditional congregational prayers in mosques during Ramzan, endangering the drive to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Minister Umar asked the people to follow the restrictions during Ramzan which will start from Saturday. The month of Ramzan will be decisive and if succeeded in reinforcing restrictions, the situation could get better after Eid," he said.

The minister said that the Army was helping the government to tackle the COVID-19 situation. He said cash was being distributed to the poor under the Ehsaas program and it will continue during Ramazan.

"At least Rs 69 billion have been distributed among deserving people under the Ehsaas program," he said, adding Rs 144 billion will be distributed to the poor.

Meanwhile, Asian Development Bank assured to provide 1.7 billion dollars to Pakistan to fight the impacts of coronavirus.

The assurance was given by the President of the bank during a virtual meeting with Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar.

Radio Pakistan reported that the bank will approve USD 800 budget support by June this year.

It will provide the next tranche of USD 900 million by the end of this year.

The budget support will be provided to Pakistan on special concessionary basis.

The Minister for Economic Affairs thanked the Asian Development Bank for extending the financial cooperation to Pakistan.

Earlier, the International Monetary Fund provided USD 1.4 billion under an emergency arrangement to help Pakistan.