Pakistanis should celebrate the upcoming Eid festival with “simplicity” to prevent a spike in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday.
Many people ignored social distancing guidelines and flocked to mosques and markets during the last religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan in May — helping fuel a subsequent surge in COVID-19 cases across Pakistan.
The increase prompted the World Health Organization to call for new lockdowns across Pakistan.
“Eid ul Azha must be celebrated with simplicity so as not to repeat what happened last Eid when SOPs (standard operating procedures) were ignored & our hospitals were choked”, Khan tweeted, adding that he was ordering the “strict implementation” of government guidelines.
The Eid festival of animal sacrifice will begin at the end of the month and lasts for several days. Authorities expect a rush of people going to markets to look for sheep, goats and other animals to slaughter.
Many in Pakistan return to their family homes from cities to observe the festival.
According to official tallies, around 260,000 people in Pakistan have tested positive for coronavirus, including more than 5,470 deaths.
In recent days, Pakistan has seen the rate of new infections slow considerably.
While some medical experts have said this is because of a decrease in testing, Khan said the “positive trend” was primarily the result of “smart” lockdowns in which hotspots are sealed off.
Cricketer-turned-politician Khan drew criticism early in the virus crisis for resisting a comprehensive, nationwide lockdown and instead leaving provincial governments to enact most of the restrictions.
He argued that impoverished Pakistan could not afford the type of sweeping shutdowns seen in other countries.