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Ramzan becomes battleground as coronavirus cases rise in Pakistan

Ramzan becomes battleground as coronavirus cases rise in Pakistan

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan rose to 11,513 on Friday with nearly 240 deaths on a day when the imams openly challenged the government to ban congregations.

Across the Muslim world, the imams have urged the faithful to observe the holy month from the safety of their homes. Not so in Pakistan. Many influential clerics have asked their devotees to ignore the government's orders over congregation.

As the holy month of Ramzan begins in Pakistan, worshippers will assemble in mosques and fast the entire day. After sundown they will begin feasting with friends and family. However, this year Ramzan falls at a time when the entire world is observing a lockdown due to fear of catching the infection.

The Pakistan government has extended the lockdown till May 9 but many of the faithful are unlike to heed the call. Planning Minister Asad Umar has said the month of Ramazan will be "decisive" in determining the trajectory of cases in the country.

Right at the time of the start of the festival, 253 healthcare providers and medical workers were found to have been infected with coronavirus, according to the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC). Of these, 124 are doctors, 39 nurses and 90 health workers.

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the government plans to use the Inter Services Intelligence's (ISI) track and trace system under which random testing of people will begin.
Khan told journalists that no country or international organisation has given a dollar to the country in the fight against coronavirus.

The Pakistan government got a boost in the arm after two Chinese aircraft brought medical equipment and supplies along with a group of doctors. A statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations said that the team, which has "expertise in treating infectious diseases", is headed by Maj Gen Huang Qingzhen.

The statement also said that the support extended to Pakistan by China "reaffirms that being ‘Iron Brothers’ and ‘All-Weather’ friends, Pakistan and China have always helped each other in the time of need"..