The speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan stated late on Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus or COVID-19, which comes after he hosted an iftar dinner for celebrating Ramadan and also meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan and other higher officials previously in the week.
At this moment it is not known whether Khan is going to be tested but he was tested negative in April when he underwent the process after meeting with the head of Pakistan's biggest charity organisation who tested positive for the deadly virus. Faisal Edhi had met Khan in the latter's office.
Pakistan speaker tests positive for Coronavirus
The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, is currently in recess, though opposition parties have been calling for it to convene to discuss the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, where the number of cases has risen to 16,817, including 385 deaths. The decision on whether to convene rested with Speaker of the Assembly, Asad Qaiser, who on Thursday night revealed he had tested positive in the capital, Islamabad.
"I have quarantined myself at home," Qaiser, who is also a close aide to Khan, said on Twitter. Qaiser met with the prime minister on Monday, and has met several other leading figures during the past few days. The speaker had hosted an Iftar, the evening meal to break fast during Ramadan, attended by politicians and dignitaries on Monday.
Daily detection of the virus has hit record highs on each of the last three days as the country ramps up its testing. On Thursday, 990 people tested positive. Daily testing is still around 8,000 in the country, which has over 207 million people.
Government says infections are well below projections
The government says infections are well below projections and that it plans to further ease precautionary curbs after already opening dozens of industries and commercial activities, as well as mosque congregations. Qaiser is the second high official to be infected in Pakistan after the Governor of the southern province of Sindh, Imran Ismail, tested positive on Monday.
Pakistan's government agreed to allow mosque congregations after senior clerics and religious leaders threatened to violate restrictions during Ramadan. The two sides worked out safety protocols for the mosque gatherings, but a social research organization earlier this week reported that protocols were not being followed.
Prominent doctors pleaded with the government to reconsider the decision, warning that mosque congregations, which are typically larger in Ramadan, could lead to a spike in infections, with hospitals already nearing capacity.
(With agency inputs)