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Pakistan shuts down border crossing with Iran

Balochistan govt takes emergency measures, sets up 100-bed hospital near Taftan, bars people from travelling to Iran. Photo: Pakistan Today. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

ISLAMABAD, Feb 24, 2020, Pakistan Today. Pakistan on Sunday announced that it would as a precautionary measure “temporarily” close Taftan border with neighbouring Iran as alarm grows over a spike in new coronavirus infections, with the government gearing up measures to keep coronavirus at bay, Pakistan Today reported.

In addition to Pakistan, Kuwait, Turkey and Afghanistan have also sealed off their borders with Tehran in the wake of the spike in coronavirus cases that have claimed 10 lives as of yet.

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove confirmed the travel restrictions, saying the border was temporarily closed by the authorities in light of reports of coronavirus deaths in Iran.

The Balochistan government has also imposed a ban on the travel of pilgrims from Pakistan into Iran by road and has asked the provincial home department to coordinate with other provinces in this regard. Over 100 passengers were called back to Quetta from Taftan while the Balochistan government also directed the establishment of special check posts to stop people from travelling to Iran.

‘100-BED HOSPITAL’

Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani directed the provincial disaster management authority to establish a 100-bed tent hospital at the Pak-Iran border to cope with any emergency situation. Taftan Assistant Commissioner Najeebullah Qambrani said the screening of those pilgrims staying at Pakistan House has started and added that a team of doctors has arrived from Islamabad at the mobile hospital.

The CM also directed the district health officers to take precautions and ordered the deployment of special medical teams in Taftan and other bordering areas.

Meanwhile, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri spoke to Iranian authorities about measures being taken to protect pilgrims from the novel coronavirus. A statement by the Religious Affairs Ministry said that Haq is also in touch with religious scholars and tour groups in order to design a policy to protect the pilgrims from the disease.

The statement added that “joint teams had been constituted to protect pilgrims, travelling through the Taftan border, from the coronavirus”.

‘EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH ANY EVENTUALITY’

Separately, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza held a meeting in Islamabad, where he was briefed on the situation in Iran. Dr Mirza said that the government was equipped to deal with “any eventuality of coronavirus outbreak”.

The prime minister’s aide said that teams have been posted across the Taftan border, where all passengers entering Pakistan are being screened.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani also issued a five-point directive to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan, which called for closing off of the Pakistan-Iran border or increased regulation at border crossing points. He further said that a health emergency is imposed in areas near the border.

On Saturday, PM Imran had also contacted CM Kamal and discussed options to stop the virus from entering the country. He told the chief minister to take all protective measures in the province along the Pak-Iran border. The chief minister had said that he was supervising all safety measures taken by the provincial government.

CORONAVIRUS IN IRAN

After Pakistan, Turkey also announced that it would as a precautionary measure “temporarily” close its land border with neighbouring Iran as alarm grows over a spike in new coronavirus infections.

“We have decided to shut the land border temporarily after an increase in the number of cases in our neighbour Iran,” Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters on Sunday.

Iraq has extended an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from Iran, the prime minister said, as authorities in Tehran announced 15 more cases of coronavirus and a death toll of eight. Baghdad had banned crossings by non-Iraqis from Iran on Thursday for three days and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Saturday night that the ban would be extended. He did not specify until when.
As for Kuwait, its Port Authority announced a ban on the entry of all ships from the Islamic republic.

Afghanistan said it too would ban travel to and from Iran over virus fears. So far there have been three suspected infections reported in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat and the National Security Council of Afghanistan said on Twitter: “To prevent the spread of the novel #coronavirus and protect the public, Afghanistan suspends all passenger movement (air and ground) to and from Iran. The suspension also includes the import of poultry products (eggs and chicken) from Iran and Pakistan.”

CORONA OUTBREAK IN IRAN

The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed the lives of at least 10 people in Iran since Wednesday. Authorities have ordered as a “preventive measure” the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres in 14 provinces across the country from Sunday.

The outbreak in Iran has centred on the holy city of Qom, where officials say travellers from China brought the new coronavirus. Iranian Health Ministry’s Spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour added that out 15 newly confirmed cases, seven were in Qom, while four were in the capital, Tehran.

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