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COVID-19: Pak PM warns mosques will be forced to shut down during Ramzan if directives not followed
(Story Reissued With Fresh Inputs)
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   4/21/2020 1:07:00 AM

By Sajjad Hussain

(Eds: Updating toll)

Islamabad, Apr 21 (PTI)
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday warned that mosques will be forced to shut down during the upcoming month of Ramzan if people did not follow the official directives issued to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 9,000 people in the country.

Khan's warning came days after the government allowed congregational prayers in mosques during the month of Ramzan after the clerics agreed to follow the government guidelines on social distancing while praying in mosques.

According to the agreement, people above the age of 50, minors and those suffering from flu will not be allowed to enter the mosques.

The worshippers must maintain a distance of six feet when praying and people should wear face masks and avoid shaking hands or embracing others.

The prime minister said that Pakistan decided to keep mosques open in Ramzan because we are an independent nation and take decisions according to our own situation .

Khan made the comments while addressing the media along with his key team of advisors about the country's fight against the pandemic.

He, however, urged people to pray at home and those attending mosques should follow official guidelines.

He warned that the government would be forced to shut down mosques if it was found that official directives on the matter were not followed.

I don't want that police arrest people who want to pray in mosques, he said.

Pakistan on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from the coronavirus, taking the country's toll to 201, while the number of confirmed rose to 9,565.

The prime minister said that Pakistan faces a bigger challenge in dealing with the pandemic than other countries as it has to tackle poverty due to the ongoing lockdown and the crisis' impact on the country's cash-strapped economy.

Our challenge is very big, including how to tackle poverty in the wake of coronavirus lockdown. But we will come out of it, he said.

He also warned that those involved in hoarding and smuggling would be treated as criminals and dealt with strictly.

Planning Minister Asad Umar said a smart tracking system has been developed to identify coronavirus patients, trace their contacts and tackle the spread of the disease.

Umar said that the new system would be in place in about a week.

Faisal Sultan, the prime minister's personal physician and focal person on coronavirus, said that the spread of virus in the country was under control and it was estimated that the tally would reach 12,000 by April 25.

Our situation is better than many developed countries. But we can only keep it under control by following the guidelines, he said.

Advisor on Security Moeed Yusuf said that the land border with Afghanistan has been opened to facilitate the movement of people but border with India was still closed.

We are in touch with India to let the stranded people cross over, he said.

Yusuf said that special flights were being allowed to bring back Pakistanis from different countries and this week 6,000 of them would be brought back, followed by another 7,000 next week.

The Prime Minister and his advisors earlier attended the meeting of National Command Centre on COVID-19.

The worst-hit Punjab province reported 4,255 cases, Sindh 3,052, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 1,276, Balochistan 465, Gilgit-Baltistan 281, Islamabad 185 and Kashmir-occupied Kashmir 51.

A total of 2,073 patients have recovered from the disease.

So far 111,806 tested had been conducted including 5,347 during the last 24 hours.

Advisor on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said that 5 million chloroquine tablets would be sent to the UK, 1 million each to Saudi Arabia and the US, 700,000 to Kazakhstan, 500,000 to each Turkey and Italy, and 300,000 to Qatar.

Prime Minister Khan said that the international community can now understand the suffering of the people of Kashmir as various parts of the world are protesting against lockdowns meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

India on Sunday trashed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's comments alleging targeting of Muslims in the country in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Instead of concentrating on fighting COVID-19, they are making baseless allegations against their neighbours," the MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi.