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COVID-19: Pakistani Lawmaker, Ex-Governor Die After Positive Tests; Chechnya Imposes Eid Restrictions

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Shaheen Raza (left), a member of the ruling Tehrik-e-Insaaf Party, and Syed Fazal Agha, the former governor of Balochistan Province, both died of COVID-19 on May 20.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is almost 330,000 with more than 5 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Pakistan

A legislator in the provincial assembly of Punjab and a former provincial governor died on May 20 in separate hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus.

Shaheen Raza, 60, a member of the ruling Tehrik-e-Insaaf Party, passed away in a hospital in Punjab province, marking the first death of a lawmaker from coronavirus in Pakistan.

Pakistani President Arif Alvi expressed grief over her death and offered condolences to her family.

“I would like to console the death of Punjab MPA Ms Shaheen Raza Chheema,” the Pakistani president said in a tweet on May 20

The official Radio Pakistan station reported that Prime Minister Imran Khan had also sent condolences.

Separately, the former governor of Balochistan Province, Syed Fazal Agha, who had tested positive for the coronavirus and was admitted to a hospital in Karachi, Sindh Province, died on May 20, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported, quoting hospital sources.

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Pakistan has recorded 45,898 infections and 985 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Pakistan has relaxed the lockdown, and people are freely shopping in the markets for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr festival.

Meanwhile, mosques have also been opened for the prayers, and many people have gathered without proper precautions.

Khan has repeatedly expressed his opposition to a complete lockdown, arguing that this will result in serious financial problems for lower-paid workers.

Several Pakistani parliamentarians and government figures have tested positive for the coronavirus. Prominent among them are Sindh Province Governor Imran Ismail, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, and former provincial minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

North Caucasus

Authorities in Russia's North Caucasus regions of Chechnya and Daghestan have imposed restrictions to deter people from gathering in groups this weekend as the mostly Muslim-populated regions mark the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday, known locally as Uraza Bairam, to mark the end of the month of Ramadan.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said on May 21 that all movements, except for emergency services, will be banned from May 23 to 26 across the republic, adding that a violation of the rule "will be punished in accordance with the law."

In neighboring Daghestan, authorities announced on May 21 that two cities, Kizlyar and Kizilyurt, will be locked down during the four-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr. A decision on Makhachkala, the capital, had yet to be taken.

A day earlier, President Rustam Minnikhanov, head of the mostly Muslim-populated Republic of Tatarstan in the Volga region, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the republic's residents will mark the holiday at home due to the pandemic.

Usually, Muslims gather in mosques for mass prayers to mark Eid al-Fitr but in many former Soviet republics and other countries, Muslims are set to mark the holiday at home because of the outbreak.

Central Asia

Authorities in Turkmenistan, where no coronavirus cases have been officially reported, have cancelled traditional ceremonies and celebrations marking the end of the academic year at schools and school-graduation events.

RFE/RL's correspondents reported on May 21 that education authorities made the decision without elaborating.

Several senior students of secondary schools in Ashgabat told RFE/RL that their teachers had told them there wouldn't be graduation ceremonies and banquets this year, but did not explain why.

Turkmenistan remains the only nation in the Central Asian region that has not officially admitted a single coronavirus case, though experts are skeptical of the claim given the lack of transparency and the absence of an independent media in the country.

In Kyrgyzstan, authorities in Bishkek said that as of May 25, fitness clubs, swimming pools, and sports centers will resume operations on condition of complying with regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

Sports venue personnel will be required to wear masks and gloves, while customers will be provided with hand sanitizer and instructed on how to keep a distance of at least 2 meters from others.

Sports venues specializing in contact and group sports will remain closed.

Health authorities said on May 21 that the number of coronavirus cases in Kyrgyzstan was 1,313, including 14 deaths.

In Uzbekistan, authorities said that as of May 22, arts galleries, museums, and parks in some selected towns and cities will be open for those who take sanitary precautions such as masks and social distancing.

In Tashkent, the Tashkent City Park resumed operations on May 20.

As of May 21, the number of coronavirus cases in the country was reported at 2,950, including 13 deaths.

In neighboring Tajikistan, officials said on May 20 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was 2,140, including 41 deaths.

Tajikistan did not officially register a coronavirus case until April 30, just ahead of the arrival of a mission from the World Health Organization.

Still, many in the country doubt the data and believe the government has been underreporting figures.

In Kazakhstan, where the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Central Asia have been reported, the latest figures are 7,234 cases with 35 deaths.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, and North Caucasus services and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
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