New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has praised his government’s Covid-19 fight, claiming that “unlike in our unfortunate neighbour India”, Pakistan is one of the “fortunate countries” where the number of cases has gone down.
As of Saturday, Pakistan has recorded a total of 2,61,917 coronavirus cases with 5,522 deaths. India’s tally has risen to more than 10.38 lakh cases and 26,273 deaths.
But closer inspection of the data shows Pakistan is conducting 21 per cent less tests per million than India, and has 56 per cent more cases per million population while having one-sixth the population.
In a tweet Friday, Imran Khan said: “Pakistan is amongst the fortunate countries where Covid 19 cases in hospitals, especially in intensive care & death rate have gone down, unlike in our unfortunate neighbour India. This positive trend has been the result of our smart lockdown policy & the nation observing govt SOPs.”
Pak is amongst the fortunate countries where COVID 19 cases in hospitals, esp in intensive care & death rate have gone down, unlike in our unfortunate neighbor India. This positive trend has been the result of our smart lockdown policy & the nation observing govt SOPs.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 17, 2020
He also urged the people of Pakistan to continue observing standard operating procedures to keep up the “positive trend”, and to celebrate the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha by ensuring what happened last Eid is not repeated.
After Pakistan eased its nationwide lockdown on 9 May, the country saw a surge in cases in the run-up to Eid-ul-Fitr on 26 May. Daily infections rose from about 1,700 per day during the lockdown to 5,385 new cases on just one day, 10 June, as people rushed to markets to celebrate the festival. This peaked to 6,825 new cases on 14 June.
Pakistan’s rising cases and low testing came under the World Health Organization’s radar too. On 7 June, in a letter to Pakistan’s seven provincial governments, WHO’s Pakistan representative Palitha Mahipala had said the country did not meet any of the six technical criteria for easing a lockdown, and asked it to ramp up testing to 50,000 tests a day.
Comparison with India’s numbers
Despite the WHO’s letter, Pakistani government data shows that while the country has ramped up testing, it is still not conducting enough tests. It has conducted 23,011 tests per day as on 17 July, compared to 11,361 tests on 11 May, but this is still less than half the WHO target. India, meanwhile, conducted 3,61,024 tests on 17 July alone.
Pakistan is conducting 7,686 tests per million compared to India’s 9,730 tests per million. As on 17 July, Pakistan had 57,885 active cases, of which 1,604 were critical. On the same day, India had 3,64,421 active cases, with 8,944 of them critical.
From the perspective of population density, India has 759 cases per million population, while Pakistan has 1,185 cases per million. India has reported 19 deaths per million population while Pakistan has reported 25. This, despite the fact that India’s population is over 1.3 billion while Pakistan’s population is just over 212 million. Pakistan’s population density of 287 per square kilometre is also much lower than India’s 464 per sq km.
Pakistan can’t leave India out of Covid fight
This is not the first time that Imran Khan or his government has targeted India over the novel coronavirus.
On 11 June, after a report claimed 84 per cent Indian households had suffered a decrease in monthly income, the Pakistan PM had, in a tweet, offered to share details of his government’s cash transfer programme to help the poor during the pandemic.
Acc to this report, 34% of households across India will not be able to survive for more than a week without add assistance. I am ready to offer help & share our successful cash transfer prog, lauded internationally for its reach & transparency, with India.https://t.co/CcvUf6wERM
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 11, 2020
He claimed that his government had transferred Rs 12,000 crore to over nine crore families in nine weeks.
Imran Khan’s supporters too have repeatedly showed India’s figures to highlight Pakistan’s Covid fight. On 14 June, Pakistan Federal Minister Asad Omar tweeted that while Pakistan has noted 242 per cent increase in deaths in a month, India recorded 258 per cent.
Total cumulative deaths due to covid on 14th may : Pakistan 770, India 2,649. Cumulative covid deaths on 14th June : Pakistan 2632, India 9,485. Increase in deaths last month : Pakistan 242% India 258%. There is much we are still learning about covid spread and mortality.
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) June 14, 2020
On 17 July, daily new cases in Pakistan stood at 1,918, dropping below 2,000 for the first time in three months, continuing a decreasing trend — it registered 6,604 cases on 19 June, 2,846 cases on 29 June, and 2,752 cases on 10 July.
The Pakistan government claimed that this fall was due to its preventive measures, and defended its testing policy. It had deployed ‘smart’ restrictions after the removal of the strict lockdown to identify hotspots and cluster zones, which were then locked down to stamp out the spread while reopening the rest of the country, in order to minimise economic damage.
Imran fights opposition storm
Despite the dropping number of cases, the opposition in Pakistan has accused the Imran Khan-led Tehreek-e-Insaf government of endangering the lives of the people by keeping testing numbers low.
Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto said on 14 July at a press conference: “They make a mockery of themselves by claiming that the graph of coronavirus cases is going down in the country.”
He also said that if the government stops testing, numbers will go down.
Experts have also warned against premature celebrations about dropping numbers, with the Pakistan Medical Association advising the government to increase testing to 1 lakh per day.
“It’s too early to jump to the conclusion vis-à-vis claims about a decline in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths,” Qaisar Sajjad, president of the body, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
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