Pakistan Prime Minister and former cricket captain Imran Khan has tested positive for Covid-19. The news was confirmed by Dr Faisal Sultan, an infectious diseases expert and special advisor to the PM on health. Khan, 68, is understood to be experiencing mild symptoms, with Sultan confirming he would be self-isolating at home.
Khan was given his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine two days earlier, and his advisors were keen to point out, immunity takes time to kick in after a shot and the vaccine itself does not infect people with the virus. A number of doctors and government officials hastened to add this wasn't a reason for people not to get vaccinated, a crucial message in a country where vaccine take-up has been low.
Khan became prime minister in August 2018 after his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) won the largest number of seats. Since the start of the pandemic, he has resisted the imposition of a complete lockdown, with the government implementing what they have called "smart lockdowns", targeting specific regions that have seen outbreaks spike. Over the past few days, Khan has been making public appearances, inaugurating projects and meeting people, with the government urging anyone who has been in close contact with him to get themselves tested.
Pakistan has been spared the worst effects of the virus over the duration of the pandemic. There have been, to date, around 625,000 cases and under 14,000 deaths since the first case was recorded in February 2020.
But that has changed recently, with a clear rise in cases and hospital admissions over the past month indicating a third wave of the pandemic. Just last week, the government announced all restaurants in Punjab, the largest province, would be closed temporarily. With social distancing measures and mask-wearing relatively low, there have been warnings Pakistan might have to close all non-essential businesses and implement a complete lockdown to get the virus under control.