LAHORE, Pakistan

More than 440 health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Pakistan and eight have died so far, as per latest data shared by authorities.

Figures updated on the National Emergency Operation Centre’s website on Thursday showed 191 medical workers tested positive in a span of a week.

The new cases, along with the 253 who were diagnosed with COVID-19 until April 23, raised the total number to 444.

Of those, 216 are doctors, 67 are nurses, and 161 other medical workers.

A total of 204 are in isolation at their homes, 138 are under treatment at hospitals across the country, and 94 have recovered.

The sharp rise in new cases among health care workers comes amid continuing protests by the medical community over a lack of personal protective equipment and against the government’s approach to lockdowns.

Last week, doctors in all provinces issued separate calls for a stricter and longer nationwide lockdown.

“We must save the lives of our doctors; if they start dying or are unable to work, what will happen to the patients? Who will treat them?” Dr. Ikram Tunio, head of the Pakistan Medical Association, said in a conversation with Anadolu Agency.

At a news conference on Thursday, Dr. Zafar Mirza, the country’s de facto health minister, said the government was concerned for the safety of medical workers and would soon take steps for their protection.

Pakistan, which is the second worst-hit country in South Asia after India, last week extended the lockdown initially imposed in March until May 9.

On Friday, the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan passed 17,000 and the death toll moved close to 400.

A total of 1,322 new cases raised the total to 17,439, including 4,315 recoveries, while 33 fatalities pushed the death toll to 391.

More than 3.3 million people in 187 countries and regions have been infected since the virus emerged in China last December, with the US and Europe the hardest-hit areas in the world.

A significant number of COVID-19 patients – over 1.05 million – have recovered, but the disease has also claimed over 235,000 lives so far, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University in the US.

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