Lahore: Pakistan has only had relatively few infections of Coronavirus but even then, the Government has begun a lockdown in provinces most affected.
The number of Coronavirus infections in Pakistan rose to 646 after the country reported 160 new cases over the last 24 hours. Pakistan has registered its 4th death from COVID-19 today which is the third from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK).
Provincial governments have announced the closure of public spaces, educational institutions, public transports, market, malls and playgrounds for at least three weeks, while section 144 has been imposed and strict action is being taken against those who are stocking up face masks and hand sanitizers and selling them on for higher prices.
The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Pakistan in the past few days is believed to be a consequence of pilgrims returning from the Iran-Pakistan border facility Taftan, to their respective provinces.
Across the country many bus and train routes have been suspended and Sindh Province has now entered a phase of total lockdown with the military already in place to enforce it. Punjab, KPK and province is currently in partial lockdown phase but may very soon also begin a total lockdown after
The sudden spike has resulted in the removal of all US diplomats as fears of a mass infection increase and other diplomat will be soon to follow no doubt.
Across the country many bus and train routes have been suspended and Sindh Province has now entered a phase of total lockdown with the military already in place to enforce it. Punjab, KPK and Balochistan provinces are currently in partial lockdown phase but may very soon also begin a total lockdown. Balochistan have already requisitioned the army under Article 245 of the Pakistan Penal Code to aid civil administration with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking to our officers on the ground we have been informed that all religious organisations have been forced to stop services for three weeks now. Many of these Pastors have taken to social media with Facebook live-streaming the most popular means for on-line services, however Youtube and the regular Christian TV Channels are another option. Some house churches have continued to operate with a much smaller number of attendees as some Christians choose to rely on God for their protection from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fears grow that Christians are the most deprived communities in the country and that the majority live under the poverty line, meaning that if a total lockdown were to be imposed more deaths could potentially occur through depression and starvation than from the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 7% of Christians attain and adequate level of literacy, the majority of Christians work as sweepers, farmhands, domestic cleaners , sewage workers or enslaved in the brick kilns or carpet weaving industry (1 million enslaved in brick kilns 500,000 estimated in the carpet weaving industry).
Quarantine centres are being set up in hotels of which few would take in these deprived Christians, moreover testing points are not available in rural communities and are very limited. These deprived Christians will not be able to afford the £40 private medical institutions charge for COVID-19 testing. Moreover, these Christians will not be able to pay for the medicines that can help reduce the symptoms of an infection - so we should all expect a massive rise in deaths (painful at that) should any of them be infected.
Rural Christians already have a lower life expectancy than most in Pakistan and often do not even have access to clean water - forced to drink water by placing a handkerchief on puddles and slurping the water through them. Their lifestyles make them vulnerable to the debilitating effects of COVID-19.
Prime Minister, Imran Khan on Sunday, said: Lockdown means a curfew-like situation, which will create unrest in the country and we cannot afford that. It would make poor people more vulnerable.”
He is pinning his hopes on self-isolation but Christians cannot afford to hoard and wait out a long period without work, when their daily work barely covers their food-on-table. Forced to work on they will endanger others in the country and themselves unless the Government of Pakistan, the UN and other western nations intervene.
How ominous must they sound to Christians and other deprived communities.
BACA is committed to helping where we can, the millions of Pakistani Christians struggling under the threat of COVID-19. We aim to provide free medicine, and food to the most deprived communities enabling them to protect themselves from the spreading virus.