KARACHI, Pakistan 

Pakistan has reported its highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in a single day since the pandemic struck the South Asian nuclear state in March, prompting health experts to call for a “strict” lockdown to contain it.

According to the Health Ministry, a record 3,039 new cases, and 88 deaths from the disease have been reported in the country over the past 24 hours.

The country has recorded 223 deaths in the past three days, and over 8,000 new infections, with health experts warning of a steep rise in the number of cases in coming days.

On Saturday, the tally of confirmed cases reached 69,224 with 1,483 deaths so far.

According to the officials statistics, the southern Sindh province tops the tally with 27,360 cases, followed by the northeastern Punjab where 25,056 people have so far been infected with the virus.

Lockdown demanded

The government has declared wearing of face mask mandatory at the public places in a desperate attempt to stem the fast-expanding pandemic.

In the capital Islamabad, violators will be fined, and could be sent to the jail, according to an official notification.

The government of Sindh province — the worst hit by the pandemic — suggests a 14-day “effective” lockdown to slow down the pace of rising number of cases.

“Only an effective lockdown throughout the country for 14 days can stem the rising wave of coronavirus cases. But the federal government seems to be in no mood to go for that,” Mutaza Wahab, a spokesman for the Sindh government told reporters, referring to lifting of lockdown restrictions, including resumption of train service, and flight operation.

Echoing Wahab’s view, Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, the secretary general of Pakistan Medical Association — a nationwide body of health professionals — said: “The lockdown at this stage can yield some results only if it is enforced across the country under a uniform policy. Otherwise, it will have no impact”.

“And there should be no confusion this time,” he told Anadolu Agency referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s continuous opposition to a complete lockdown.

Globally, more than 6 million cases have been confirmed in 188 countries and regions since the virus emerged in China last year.

The pandemic has killed nearly 370,000 people worldwide, while over 2.58 million people have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University of the US.

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