Pakistan’s restaurants and marriage halls are emerging as hotspots of coronavirus spread after they were reopened from lockdown, the government has warned.
Local administrations have been told to crackdown on the flouting of precautions after spot inspections showed many were failing to stick to safety measures.
Doctors have raised the alarm about growing infections in parts of Sindh province, and particularly the city of Karachi, warning the world’s sixth most populous country is at risk of a second wave.
Pakistan continues to post low caseloads each day and deaths and infections have fallen sharply and remained low since a peak in mid-June. Yet epidemiologists have warned against complacency, saying a second wave is possible.
Asad Umar, the planning minister who has overseen much of the country’s pandemic response, said indoor restaurants and marriage halls where wedding parties are held were “emerging as high contributors to Covid spread”.
The venues were some of the last to be opened in the country as businesses emerged from spring lockdowns. Restaurants opened in August and wedding halls last month.
Mr Umar said the national command centre “has directed all provinces and federating units to crack down on standard operating procedure violations in these places. We must not allow irresponsible behaviour of some to put the health of everyone at risk.”
Large indoor gatherings with people in prolonged close contact have proven to be particularly dangerous for the spread of the disease. The first nine-months of the pandemic have seen repeated super-spreader events in bars, restaurants, churches, hotels and cruise ships.
Karachi local government figures seen by the Telegraph show that more than two out of five restaurants given spot checks have been breaking safety measures in the city. A total of 61 restaurants were closed as a result. Inspectors found marriage halls had been better at sticking to the rules, with only 14 per cent flouting restrictions.