Pakistan reported over 5,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, prompting the prime minister to issue a warning of greater nationwide restrictions if people do not follow health guidelines.
Imran Khan told the public during a live question-and-answer session that the ongoing third wave of COVID-19 is “way more dangerous.”
“We have so far been protecting our people, we are not imposing a lockdown [or] closing our factories. We are only imposing minor restrictions so that this wave doesn’t spread rapidly,” he said. “But if it continues to spread like this, it will have a very negative impact and we will be forced to take strict steps.”
He added: “I request you to wear a mask wherever you go.”
Health officials have warned that the hospitals across the country are overcrowded, with a record 3,568 patients in critical condition.
With 5,020 new COVID-19 cases, the overall caseload has risen to 687,908, the Health Ministry said, adding that another 81 people died of the infection in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 14,778.
So far, 613,058 patients have recovered, with 60,072 cases of COVID-19 still active.
Infections have risen sharply in the South Asian nation of over 200 million people in recent days, with over 15,000 COVID-19 cases reported in April alone.
Last week, the government said existing COVID-19 restrictions will continue for at least three more weeks. They include “broader lockdowns” in high-risk areas, with no movement allowed, except for emergencies. Educational institutions have also been closed until at least April 11 in districts with high infection rates.
Pakistan is currently vaccinating frontline health care workers and senior citizens using Sinopharm doses donated by China.
According to Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to the prime minister on health, over 0.8 million vaccine doses have been administered.
Private hospitals in major cities have also started inoculation with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine imported by a pharmaceutical company.