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Pakistan Coronavirus Cases Surge Past 25,000 As Government Set To Ease Lockdown

An activist, wearing a protective mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), attends a rally demanding improvements in the working conditions during the International Labour Day, in the southern seaport city of Karachi on May 1.

Coronavirus cases in Pakistan surged past 25,000 on May 8, officials said, just hours before Islamabad was due to ease its lockdown measures.

Authorities recorded 1,574 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 25,837 -- one of the highest rates in the region after Iran, which has reported more than 103,000.

Pakistan, with a population of some 220 million people, has suffered 594 deaths due to COVID-19.

Despite the climbing figures, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said Pakistan will ease its lockdown beginning May 9, amid fears for the country's economy as it sinks into recession.

Khan said the easing of restrictions, aimed at helping the country's most impoverished citizens, would be lifted in phases.

Small markets and shops will be the first to open, with restricted hours, while big malls and other spaces that attract large crowds will remain closed for now.

Schools will stay shut until mid-July and a decision on reopening intercity transport would be made at a later, unspecified, date.

Khan warned people that the epidemic could get out of control if they did not take precautions. He added that restrictions could be restored if the outbreak worsens.