Pakistan government, opposition trade blame as virus cases surge

Pakistan recorded 3,306 coronavirus infections on Nov 25, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE (BLOOMBERG) - Pakistan has reported a sharp jump in daily new Covid-19 cases over the last week, which the administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan partly blamed on an opposition alliance calling people to take to the streets to topple his government.

The South Asian nation recorded 3,306 coronavirus infections on Nov 25, the highest single-day increase in almost three months, according to data provided by the national Health Ministry.

Despite the spike in new infections the opposition grouping protesting against Mr Khan's government has refused to call off a protest rally slated for Monday (Nov 30) in Multan, a central city in the country's most populous Punjab province.

The federal government has announced some restrictions this month - including a ban on political rallies - amid concerns large gatherings may result in a surge of new Covid-19 cases.

The measures are aimed at avoiding fresh curbs on businesses and movement that could hurt an economy that had just picked up after an earlier lockdown.

Mr Khan blames the opposition for "not caring for the lives and safety of the people" amid a rise in cases in the second wave of the pandemic.

"Now, with new spike, when we again need smart lockdown," the opposition wants rallies, Mr Khan said on Twitter.

The opposition alliance gathered thousands of its supporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar last week as part of a series of protest rallies that it plans will culminate in a march on capital Islamabad in January to call for Mr Khan's resignation.

The police arrested many protesters in Multan over the past two days to prevent them from gathering for Monday's rally, local media reported.

"Imran Khan's government is a bigger threat to Pakistan and its economy than the virus," top opposition leader Fazl ur Rehman said at a news conference on Sunday.

Mr Rehman, who heads the Pakistan Democratic Movement opposition alliance, called on supporters to "break barriers" to reach the venue of the rally.

Mr Khan takes pride in taking measures during the first wave of the pandemic that spared Pakistan from the kind of virus infection numbers that have hit neighbouring India, which at over 9.4 million cases is the second worst-hit nation after the US.

In comparison, Pakistan has so far reported some 398,024 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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