- PM, President extend greetings on the occasion
- Urge people to follow Covid SOPs as Delta variant spreads
- Fears grow that Delta variant may provoke an extreme surge in Covid cases during the Eid holidays
Pakistanis are celebrating Eid-ul-Azha amid growing concerns that the highly contagious Delta variant is quickly spreading across the country.
This is the second successive year that Eid-ul-Azha is being celebrated with Covid-related restrictions in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan wished the nation on the occasion and urged people to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"Qurbani (ritual animal sacrifice) does not only mean sacrificing the animal but it also refers to man sacrificing his desires for a higher purpose. This passion gives rise to such an ability in a man that even the hardest times do not make him go astray from the right path," the Prime Minister's Office quoted him as saying.
President Arif Alvi also extended greetings for Eid-ul-Azha. "May He (God) make Pakistan strong & prosperous. May we sacrifice for others in the spirit of [Prophet] Ibrahim. Ameen," he prayed.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed, and Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar also wished the nation.
Pakistani and Indian Army troops also exchanged sweets on the occasion at the Poonch-Rawalkot crossing point. This is the first exchange of sweets between the Pakistani and Indian troops after the Pulwama incident in 2019.
Covid-19 cases have risen sharply ahead of the Eid al-Azha holidays. On Monday, Pakistan reported 2,452 fresh Covid-19 cases and 30 deaths, taking the total infections tally to 991,727 and deaths tally to 22,811 since the pandemic outbreak.
Last week, Pakistan's coronavirus positivity rate crossed 5 percent after nearly two months and has now risen to over 6 percent.
Earlier this month, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar warned that there were clear signs of a fourth Covid-19 wave starting in Pakistan. "Two weeks ago, I had tweeted that our artificial intelligence models are showing the possible emergence of a fourth wave. Now there are clear early signs of a fourth wave starting," he said in a Twitter message.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also warned that the fourth wave of Covid-19 is looming over the country and termed the Delta variant, which originated in India, "the biggest concern” for Pakistan. “If we survive the fourth wave, we will be able to save our country,” he said.
“We fear the Indian variant could strike Pakistan and as a precautionary measure, we need to adhere to the SOPs," said the prime minister in a video message addressed to the nation.
The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant reached alarming levels in Karachi on the eve of the Eidul-Azha, according to Reuters.
Public and some private sector hospitals are reaching capacity and have started refusing patients, medical officials said on Tuesday.
"God have mercy on us, people are not taking this pandemic seriously. Such irresponsible behavior on the Eid will make matters worse," Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association told Reuters.
There are fears that the Delta variant may provoke an extreme surge in Covid-19 cases across the country during the Eid holidays.
So far, 22.74 million vaccine jabs have been administered across the country of which 4.5 million fully and 18.18 million partially.
There have not been any major reports of Covid-19 SOP violations. Yesterday, the National Command and Operation Centre said that compliance with Covid-19 SOPs on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha is critical to contain the disease's spread.