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COVID-19: Pakistan Extends Suspension Of International Flights; Tajikistan Suspends Soccer Season


People wait for their turn to get free chest X-ray and other tests during a nation wide lockdown to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus in the northwestern city of Quetta on April 24.

Authorities in Pakistan have extended the suspension of international flights for a further two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The suspension of international flight operations had been due to end in early May but has now been "extended up to May 15," government aviation division spokesperson Abdul Sattar Khokhar said.

The move came as health officials warned that tens of thousands of people in Pakistan are ignoring advice to stay home during the holy month of Ramadan, raising fears that the coronavirus pandemic will spread further.

Pakistan has been divided over whether to ease coronavirus restrictions during Ramadan, which began in the country on the evening of April 24.

The federal government in Islamabad has caved to pressure from Islamic clerics to let them lead prayers.

But the southern province of Sindh has announced that no religious gatherings can be held there amid grim warnings by medical workers.

Thousands of people ignored the advice to stay home during the weekend, flocking to mosques and markets on April 25. Many people were seen without face masks and were ignoring social-distancing guidelines.

President Arif Alvi has asked prayer leaders not to allow people over 50 years old into mosques, as agreed by the government and clerics in a 20-point plan to hold congregational prayers during Ramadan.

Doctors warn that the decision to allow gatherings could unleash an uncontrollable wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Pakistani Medical Association says the country is still at least six weeks away from a peak of the coronavirus spread.

More than 12,700 people have been infected in Pakistan so far and 269 have died, according to official government figures.

Tajikistan

Tajikistan is suspending games of the country's 10-team soccer league until May 10 amid a series of fresh coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government.

Tajikistan's soccer federation said on April 26 that the suspension of league games will take effect on April 27.

Games scheduled to take place on April 26 were set to go ahead without any spectators, just like other matches staged in Tajikistan while the pandemic has been spreading around the world.

Tajikistan has yet to acknowledge that it has any cases of the coronavirus. That has prompted suspicions that authorities in Dushanbe are not accurately reporting information about the pandemic in their country.

Other former Soviet republics in Central Asia have confirmed hundreds of cases.

On April 25, Tajikistan's government decided to close schools for two weeks. It also imposed a ban on exports of grain in what the government said was an effort to ensure there is an adequate domestic supply.

Tajikistan's soccer league has attracted international attention in recent weeks as one of the only countries that has pushed ahead with its soccer season.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP and dpa

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