Pak closes western borders as COVID-19 cases reach 28

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has taken a number of steps to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, including closing the western borders with Iran and Afghanistan and banning all large public gatherings, as the number of confirmed cases has increased to 28 in the country.

The decisions were taken at a high-level National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on Friday which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the provincial chief ministers and the civilian and military leadership, reports Dawn news.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza said seven new cases had all been reported in Taftan among Pakistani pilgrims who have returned from Iran.

All seven people are stable and recovering.

He also announced that Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and Iran will be closed “completely” for two weeks, following which the situation will be reviewed.

During this period, the system for screening and preventing further infections will be made stronger.

Mirza also said all large public gatherings will be banned, including weddings and conferences, for a period of two weeks.

Cinemas will also be closed while all remaining Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 matches will take place in empty stadiums.

Another decision taken at the meeting was that only three airports in the country – Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore – will be allowed to operate international flights.

The matter of whether religious congregations should be banned has been referred to the religious affairs minister and the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology.

However, the Pakistan government was yet to declare an emergency to deal with the coronavirus threat and the the public has been urged not to spread panic.