ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has reported 5,358 new coronavirus cases, pushing infections in the Middle East beyond 1 million.
Cases in Pakistan have been spiraling in recent weeks, crossing 160,000 on Thursday even as Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted pleas from medical professionals and the World Health Organization to reimpose a strict lockdown for at least two weeks.
Khan says a countrywide lockdown would devastate an already crumbling economy and hurt the poorest with unemployment expected to near 7 million. Economists say Pakistan’s poverty rate of 30% has increased to 40% since the first lockdown was imposed in mid-March.
Khan’s critics say a series of missteps has worsened the epidemic in Pakistan, beginning with his refusal to shut down mosques, particularly in April and May during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan followed by Eid-al Fitr, a holiday that brought millions of Pakistanis into overcrowded markets.