Pakistani doctors have called on the government and powerful clerics to reverse a decision to allow prayers at mosques during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan out of concern that large gatherings will lead to an explosion of coronavirus cases.
Under pressure from clerics, the Pakistani government over the weekend loosened restrictions on communal prayer at mosques ahead of the beginning of Ramadan, which falls on April 24 in Pakistan.
Doctors with the Pakistani Medical Association wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan and clerics on April 22 that lockdowns are needed to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus. They said the health-care system is already being overrun by cases.
"We demand [a] strict lockdown to contain rapid spread of COVID-19," the letter said.
"Unfortunately, our rulers have made a wrong decision; our clerics have shown a nonserious attitude," Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistani Medical Association, told a news conference.
Pakistan has a population of over 220 million people, and has recorded more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 212 deaths. The real numbers are likely much higher.
Doctors warn the country has fewer than 3,000 ventilators and health workers lack enough protective gear.
With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters