Pakistan Is Understating Virus Infections and Deaths, Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan is understating its rate of infections and the death toll from the coronavirus, the head of a government task force said, as the country becomes a hot spot for the pandemic in South Asia.

“The actual numbers will be two to three times more than what the government is reporting,” Atta ur Rahman, chairman of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s task force on science and technology, said on the phone. A large number of cases aren’t being reported because of low testing and as reasons other than respiratory failure aren’t being counted in deaths, he said.

Pakistan’s coronavirus cases have increased manifold since the government eased a lockdown in the second week of May after a partial shutdown of about two months. Khan has said he is allowing some businesses to open as he fears people will die of poverty and hunger instead of the virus. Alarmed by the rising number of cases, the authorities have again started shutting down residential localities in 20 key cities including Lahore, the second-biggest, and Islamabad, the capital.

Pakistan is the second most infected nation in Asia after India with 154,760 cases and about 3,000 deaths. The fatality rate of 2% is less than half of the 5% global average.

“Virus testing is too low and random testing virtually doesn’t exist,” Rahman said, whose task force is advising the government on developing protective equipment. “The government data is only based on tests being carried out on those people who report symptoms.”

The nation expects infected people to rise almost eight times to 1.2 million by the end of July, according to Asad Umar, planning minister who is overseeing the nation’s coronavirus nerve center.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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