India and Pakistan both reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. At the end of June 3, India had 2,16,919 confirmed COVID-19 cases while 85,264 have tested positive in Pakistan. On Wednesday, Pakistan reported 4,688 new cases and 82 new fatalities. Both countries are trying to get their economies back up and running after the pandemic brought economic activities to a halt. But the growing number of coronavirus cases in both India and Pakistan threatens to take their economies deep into recession.
Pakistan surpasses China in coronavirus cases
After reporting a record 4,688 new cases on Wednesday, Pakistan’s total number of coronavirus cases has surpassed China. As many as 1,770 people have lost their lives to the virus. Another 901 patients are listed as being “critical” in various hospitals across the country.
Government authorities attributed the record spike on June 3 to increased testing. Pakistan conducted more than 20,000 tests on June 3, according to the Ministry of National Health Services. Since reporting its first case in February, Pakistan has conducted over 615,000 coronavirus tests. As many as 30,128 people have successfully recovered from the virus.
Sindh province has reported 32,910 coronavirus cases. Punjab has recorded 31,104 while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 11,372 confirmed cases. Minister for Planning Asad Umar said that the government has launched an aggressive media campaign to create awareness and educate the public.
Pakistan has witnessed a spike in new cases after Prime Minister Imran Khan eased lockdown restrictions to kick start the economy. The government pushed for a “smart lockdown” with social distancing measures and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in public places and high-risk areas.
Pakistan closing major markets as people ignore social distancing
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to ease lockdown restrictions was aimed at providing livelihood. Millions of daily wage earners and small businesses were without income due to the lockdown. But as soon as the authorities eased restrictions, people flocked the crowded markets and streets. Most citizens venturing outside their homes were not observing social distancing measures.
On Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill tweeted that several major markets across the country would be closed. Gill blamed it on crowds violating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) under the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab governments have also decided to shut down all major markets for the same reason. The SOPs were designed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Strict action will be taken against businesses violating the norms.
India unlocking as new coronavirus cases rise
India enforced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March to contain the coronavirus. The lockdown gave the country much-needed time to upgrade its healthcare system and stock up medical supplies. It has also helped contain the virus in a country of 1.3 billion people. However, the economy has suffered badly.
The government of India has announced the Unlock 1.0, which came into effect on June 1. It has allowed flight operations, rail services, offices, and factories to resume work with social distancing and sanitation measures. India’s Health Ministry reported 9,304 new cases. A total of 6,075 people have lost their lives to the virus. The country’s recovery rate has been strong with 104,107 out of 216,919 patients having recovered.
India ranks 7th among the ten worst hit nations by the novel coronavirus. According to the Health Ministry, the country has conducted more than 4 million tests so far. India has also ramped up its daily testing capacity to 140,000 tests through 480 government hospitals and 208 private labs.
The worst is yet to come
The state of Maharashtra alone accounts for more than a third of India’s total coronavirus cases. Maharashtra has reported 74,860 cases so far, followed by Tamil Nadu at 25,872 and Delhi at 23,645 cases. While the number of new cases in Maharashtra has started slowing, the national capital Delhi is showing signs of worry. Delhi recorded 1,513 new cases on June 3rd.
Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh have seen a decline in the number of new cases. Overall, India’s doubling rate is 15 days. It means the country could reach 400,000 cases in the next couple of weeks. At the same pace, India would reach one million cases in the first week of July.
Hinterland states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal would also see a significant spike in new cases. Millions of migrant workers have moved back from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and other industrialized states to their homes. Some of them are carrying the coronavirus to their homes and villages.
Though the government has encouraged migrant workers to self-isolate at their homes for 14 days, some people risk infecting their family members. West Bengal has witnessed a quick rise in new cases. The state reported 340 new cases on Wednesday, taking the total to 6,508.
Both India and Pakistan have to remember that the worst is yet to come. The cases will continue to rise for the next several weeks. Getting the economy back on track is another challenge.