Prime Minister Imran Khan said the refusal to impose a complete lockdown saved the country from economic collapse. In televised speeches, he has taken to pleading with Pakistanis to wear masks, ignore countless conspiracy theories and take the virus seriously.
The coronavirus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world, and overwhelmed hospitals are turning away patients. But the government is pushing ahead with opening up the country, trying to salvage a near-collapsed economy where millions have already slid into poverty from pandemic restrictions.
Further complicating the dilemma, as the government pins its main hope for stemming the virus’ rampage on social distancing and masks, many in the public ignore calls to use them.
Millions crowd markets and mosques. Hard-line clerics tell followers to trust that faith will protect them. Many call the virus a hoax. Even some government officials dismiss warnings, saying traffic accidents kill more people.