Pakistan crosses 1 million coronavirus infections amid Delta fears

Islamabad, July 23, (dpa/GNA) – Pakistan on Friday crossed the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus infections amid fears that the outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant might batter densely populated cities.

Around 1, 500 new cases were reported on Thursday, taking the total number beyond 1 million, the Health Ministry said.

Nearly 23,000 people have succumbed to the virus so far in the South Asian nation with a population of more than 200 million and a weak health-care system.

Authorities were worried after the outbreak of the Delta variant during the ongoing fourth wave of the pandemic, Pakistan's health chief, Faisal Sultan, said.

The Delta variant was first detected in neighbouring India, where it brought the health-care system to its knees by severely infecting millions.

The variant had already become the dominant strain in Pakistan.

It now accounts for 100 per cent of new infections in the country's most populous city of Karachi, said Murtaza Wahab, spokesman for the regional government.

The slow pace of the national inoculation drive was another reason for rising infections and deaths, said Doctor Ashraf Nizami of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the largest body of medics.

Around 20 million people have received their first dose of vaccine so far, which is a small fraction of the country's population.

Officials blamed the unavailability of vaccines in the international market and delays in the supply of jabs under the global distribution system COVAX for the slow pace.