Wednesday Feb 26 2020
Web Desk

Coronavirus: Pakistan-Iran border closure enters fourth day, trade activities remain suspended

Web Desk
Pakistani soldiers wearing facemasks stand guard at the closed Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan on February 25, 2020 as fears over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus escalate following an outbreak in neighbouring Iran. Photo: AFP

The closure at the Pakistan-Iran border continued for a fourth straight day on Wednesday amid the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, reported Geo News.

At least 15 people have reportedly died from the epidemic, more than any country outside China. At least 95 cases have been confirmed by the Iranian health ministry, with Iran’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, has tested positive for the virus after downplaying outbreak concerns just days prior.

According to sources, the Balochistan government has also stopped pilgrims from traveling to Iran via Taftan border.

Read also: Pakistan seals Taftan border after coronavirus situation deteriorates in Iran

A large number of pilgrims visit Iran from Pakistan via the Taftan border crossing on a daily basis. Authorities have sealed the border, introduced screening procedures and increased patrolling in a bid to ensure the infection does not spread to Balochistan.

In light of the provincial government’s orders, deputy commissioner Sherani has set up check posts in the district to stop visitors from entering the province from Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Levies and police officers at the check post have been directed to send back those coming into the province from KP and Islamabad.

Standing committee on interior emergency session summoned

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior summoned an emergency session for Thursday to review the threat from coronavirus spread.

Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik sought a briefing on the measures to protect against the epidemic.

Senator Malik said that coronavirus should be declared a threat to the national security and the government should impose an emergency on airports, ports, and other entry points.

Quetta-Taftan train service suspended

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed also announced the suspension of train service between Quetta and Pakistan’s Taftan amid fears of coronavirus outbreak.

In a video message posted on Twitter, Rasheed said the train service would remain suspended as long the border was closed. 

On the other hand, trade activities between Islamabad and Tehran continue to be suspended for a fourth straight day due to border closure.

Read also: Pakistan ‘concerned’ over Iran coronavirus outbreak, closes border

The decision came after Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan announced that an emergency had been imposed in the province due to the outbreak of the virus in Iran. However, flights to and from Iran have not been suspended, confirmed an official of the Civil Aviation Authority Pakistan (CAAP).

Measures at Pak-Afghan border

Separately, the Pakistani government has also started screening those coming in from Afghanistan via Torkham and Chaman border crossings.

DC Khyber Mahmood Aslam told Geo News that preparations are complete at the Torkham border. “More than 100,000 people have been screened since February 19.”

According to a health official, screening is underway at the border crossing and an isolation ward has also been set-up in Miranshan.

Directorate General Health Services Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in a letter, stated that an emergency has been imposed in the province due to ongoing coronavirus scare.

The letter was forwarded to all hospitals in Peshawar, warning against strict action over dereliction of duty by officials.

The District Health Officer Peshawar said that thermal scanning of travellers is being carried out at checkpoints at Torkham border.

He said that the staff checks temperature of the people with thermal scanners and there has been an isolation ward made at a hospital near the border.