KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan on Monday said it identified 20 big cities with potential hotspots for the coronavirus pandemic, which has already infected 144,478 people across the country. 

“A total of 20 cities across Pakistan have been identified as having likely increase in ratio/speed of infection, which need restrictive measures for containment of COVID-19,” said a statement from the National Coordination Committee, a government-run body formed to deal with the pandemic in the country.

The capital Islamabad, the commercial capital and most populous city Karachi, the second largest district Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta are among the targeted cities.

Authorities plan to seal the hotspots or clusters for the virus in the respective cities in line with government’s “smart lockdown” policy.

Rejecting the World Health Organization’s advice for a two-week strict lockdown across the country to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan said a “smart lockdown” was the only possible option for the South Asian nuclear state in given circumstances.

On Monday, the country recorded 5,248 new cases with 97 deaths, taking the death toll to 2,729.

Some 53,721 patients have so far recovered, according to the Health Ministry.

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar, who is leading the country’s anti-coronavirus strategy, on Sunday warned that the COVID-19 cases could exceed 1 million by the end of July if the current trend persists.

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