Pakistan will close its border with Afghanistan for seven days from Monday to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday, as the authorities ramped up efforts to stop the new cases of infection. The announcement came a day after two more people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Pakistan, taking the total number of infections in the country to four.
The border at Chaman in Balochistan will remain closed for seven days from March 2 "in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus on both sides of the border in the best interest of the people of the brotherly countries", said a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior. "During the period, necessary measures will be taken to safeguard the health of the people of both countries," it said.
The authorities have shut schools in the southern province of Sindh, including in Karachi where the first case was reported, and the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran, The Express Tribune reported. They have also begun to trace nearly 8,000 pilgrims who recently returned to the country from Iran.
The authorities have kept more than 200 of the pilgrims in quarantine at the Taftan border and have stepped up scanning measures at airports and other border crossings, including in western Afghanistan, said government health adviser Zafar Mirza. On Wednesday, a young man from Karachi tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first confirmed case in Pakistan. Shortly after, another case was confirmed. Both of them had returned from Iran.
Pakistan on Thursday announced to suspend all flights to Iran, the new hotbed of coronavirus epidemic, as authorities scrambled to screen hundreds of people who had recently arrived from Tehran.
The land and rail links with Iran - where the coronavirus outbreak has claimed 43 lives and infected 593 people, the highest outside China - have already been snapped due to the scare of infection. The novel virus reportedly first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year and has killed 2,870 people and infected 79,824.