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Pakistan cracks down on safety breaches, coronavirus cases top 100,000

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FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask as he gestures while shopping amid the rush of people outside an electronics market, after Pakistan started easing the lockdown restrictions, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Karachi, Pakistan June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan has recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus infections, officials statistics showed on Monday and the rise in daily infections has prompted authorities to begin strict enforcement of government safety measures.

The south Asian nation, which has registered 2,067 deaths and 103,671 infections of the novel coronavirus, lifted its lockdown last month but promulgated protocols for the reopening of markets, industries and public transport – including mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing.

“First we educated the masses about the protocols, then we warned them, and now, in the last meeting with the prime minister in the chair, we directed administrations to crack down on places protocols are not being followed,” Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar said in a news conference at the weekend.

Many markets and shops have been sealed because of non-compliance over the last few days, said Umar, who also heads the national response to the pandemic.

Pakistan has been setting records for the number of new daily infections over the last 10 days, partly reflecting increased testing.

But of the 23,000 tests daily, more than 1 in 5 have been positive over the last 10 days. Before the lockdown was lifted on May 9, the number of tests finding the coronavirus was approximately 1 in 10, government statistics show.

Government officials say safety protocols are not being followed, particularly since just before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

The decision to lift the lockdown on May 9 despite increasing infections of the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, was prompted by a worsening economic crisis and unemployment.

Pakistan is the 16th country to exceed 100,000 infections, a Reuters tally showed. The virus spread has yet to peak in Pakistan, officials say.

Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Toby Chopra and Barbara Lewis

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