Pakistan has declared an eight-day partial lockdown ahead of the celebration of Eid al-Fitr next week.
Non-essential businesses must close and travel across the country is restricted from 8-16 May.
The country is currently battling a third wave of coronavirus infections, recording more than 140,000 cases and 3,000 new deaths in April alone.
Officials had warned restrictions could be necessary given neighbouring India’s devastating surge in cases.
Pakistan recorded an additional 4,109 positive cases on Saturday, according to the health ministry. Johns Hopkins University data shows Pakistan has more than 850,000 confirmed infections in total, and nearly 19,000 deaths.
Under the partial lockdown, all but essential shops, businesses and markets will close until 16 May.
Transport in and between regions and cities is restricted to private vehicles, taxis and trains, all with reduced capacity.
Officials are keenly aware that people could spread the virus as they gather to celebrate Eid with their families this week. On Friday Dr Faisal Sultan, who advises Prime Minister Imran Khan on health, said that the country was facing a “critical period” as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.
While he said there were “very initial signs of some stability” in cases, infections could again surge if measures were not taken now.
While local authorities have been imposing restrictions to try to contain the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted another nationwide lockdown, saying last month he wanted to avoid such measures because of the harm it could cause to the economy.
But Pakistani officials are mindful of neighbouring India’s ongoing battle with a deadly second wave.
Countries around the world are sending medicines, oxygen and ventilators by the planeload to try to ease the crisis gripping India’s health system. The country has recorded hundreds of thousands of new cases each day for weeks, and infections are now spreading from cities to the countryside.
Asad Umar, Pakistan’s federal minister for planning, posted a series of tweets on Saturday warning that “the entire region is exploding with cases & deaths”.
“The need for caution is clear,” he tweeted. “The danger is higher than ever and knocking at our doors.”
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