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Pakistan's Top Court Orders Lifting Of Coronavirus Restrictions On Malls, Weekend Businesses


A man paints areas to maintain social distancing outside a shopping center in Karachi after the Pakistani government eased lockdown restrictions on May 17.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the government to lift some of the remaining restrictions imposed on businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The court order affects shopping malls and businesses that have been closed on weekends.

The ruling said that as long as markets were open, there was no justification to shut shopping malls, and it found no "justifiable rational or reasonable" basis for businesses to be ordered to shut on weekends.

The court said the virus "apparently is not a pandemic in Pakistan" and questioned why fighting it was "swallowing so much money.”

With the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holidays on the coming weekend, transport and retail shopping are expected to draw massive crowds.

Pakistani authorities allowed markets to reopen last week in a phased lifting of a countrywide lockdown, and they were immediately packed with customers, with few signs of social distancing or masks covering the nose and mouth.

Doctors have expressed concern about the reopening, saying the virus could quickly spread and overwhelm the health system.

Pakistan has reported 42,125 COVID-19 cases and 903 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

While those totals are low compared to many other countries, the numbers have risen sharply this month. But authorities, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, have said the rise in cases has been lower than projected.

The court's order, which is binding, was issued using its broad authority to rule without waiting for a case to come before it.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dawn.com

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