Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says the country's five-week coronavirus lockdown will be lifted on May 9 despite a record rise in the number of cases in the country.
Khan argued in a televised address on May 7 that the decision was made because Pakistan's large number of poor people and laborers can no longer afford to live under a lockdown. Nearly 40 percent of Pakistan's 212 million people live in poverty.
"We're deciding that we are ending this lockdown now," Khan said. "We know that we're doing it at a time when our curve is going up.... but it is not edging up as we were expecting."
Pakistan, which has 24,500 official coronavirus cases with 564 fatalities, on May 7 saw its highest single-day increase of 1,523 cases.
Khan said shops and restaurants will reopen from May 9. However, train services, flights, and attendance at schools will remain suspended till May 15. Shopping malls will also remain closed, he said.
Separately, Planning Minister Asad Umer said key economic sectors including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and retail would reopen.
Pakistan's health authorities have been struggling to cope with the steady increase in infections, although the country is estimated to be still weeks away from the peak of the outbreak.
Thousands of Pakistanis are also testing positive after returning home from overseas, raising concerns of a further spread of the virus.]
With reporting by Reuters and dpa