By Mubasher Bukhari
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani local legislator died on Wednesday after contracting COVID-19, hospital officials said, marking the first death of a political figure in the South Asian nation from the disease at a time the country has lifted its countrywide lockdown.
Pakistan has recorded 45,898 infections and 985 deaths to date from the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Tuesday saw the most deaths in a single day reported, at 46.
Shaheen Raza, a 65-year-old female member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, the country’s largest province, died in the eastern city of Lahore, the CEO of Mayo Hospital, Dr Asad Aslam, told Reuters.
“She was admitted to a hospital on May 17, and brought to Mayo Hospital on Monday, where she tested positive for the virus,” Aslam said.
Raza belonged to the ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and was elected on a reserved seat for women. Punjab’s Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid, who is from the same party, said Raza had been visiting quarantine centres in the province for inspections and was a cancer survivor.
Meanwhile, despite rising rates of infections and deaths, Pakistan continued to open up the country on Wednesday, with cross-country train operations restarting after almost two months.
The timing of the restart presents a challenge for authorities with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, due to fall on Sunday or Monday, subject to the sighting of the new moon – meaning tens of thousands of people will be looking to board trains for their home towns. Railways authorities told Reuters that bookings had been limited to 60% of capacity to ensure social distancing. Tickets sold out shortly after becoming available.
“Walk-through sanitising gates, thermometers and sanitizers have been supplied to all railway stations,” Pakistan Railways public relations director Quratul Ain told Reuters, adding no passenger with a temperature or not wearing a mask would be allowed to travel.
(Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Alex Richardson)