Islamabad, August 12
Pakistan’s coronavirus response chief on Thursday said the recent assembly elections held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) acted as a “super spreader event” for the pandemic as the country struggled to contain the fourth wave of Covid-19.
Pakistan recorded 102 Covid fatalities in the last 24 hours, the highest since May 20, pushing the nationwide death toll to 24,187, while the tally of confirmed cases touched 1,085,294 with 4,934 new infections recorded overnight, the health ministry said.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), blamed the July 25 election in PoK for the spike in the spread of the virus.
The NCOC is the principal body governing the policies and implementation of the national Covid-19 effort of Pakistan.
Umar in a tweet said he had recommended that the elections in PoK be “postponed for a couple of months and a special vaccination campaign run before the elections”. However, “it was not agreed”.
“Elections (in Pok) have acted as a super spreader event,” he said.
India had rejected the elections in PoK which were won by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, saying the “cosmetic exercise” was nothing but an attempt by Pakistan to “camouflage its illegal occupation” and that it has lodged a strong protest over the issue.
Since the elections, Umar said, the positivity of PoK is running between 25 and 30 per cent.
According to the health ministry, Pakistan’s current positivity rate is 8.31 per cent, the highest during the fourth wave, which hit the country last month.
The virus is spreading fast, despite an increase in vaccination drive, the ministry said.
Over 40.6 million people have been administered at least one dose of vaccine, while more than 11.4 million were fully vaccinated, it said.
In the run-up to the elections, the NCOC had reportedly written a letter to the chief election commissioner of PoK, stating that due to the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, the polls should be delayed as large political gatherings could lead to further spread of the virus in the state.
However, the proposal was not accepted, while both major opposition parties in the centre—the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — had opposed the idea of postponing the elections, saying the Constitution had no such provision, the Dawn newspaper reported. PTI