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Fear of Coronavirus: Pakistan shuns border crossing with Iran

QUETTA: Pakistan has recently closed its border temporarily with the neighbouring country, Iran and decided not to allow anyone to cross into Pakistan without strict screening at Taftan and four other entry points in Balochistan. This step was in view of deaths caused by novel coronavirus in Iran.

Provincial Home Minister, Ziaullah Langove told the reporters,“We have closed all the five entry points Taftan, Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Washuk at the border with Iran on Sunday,” adding that the step had been taken as a precautionary measure since deaths had been reported in Iran due to outbreak of coronavirus in Qom and other areas.

However, the Iranian government has said that it had not put any restriction on travel to Iran from Pakistan and its border was open at the Iranian side.

According to Pakistani pilgrims, who were waiting at Mir Jawa to enter Pakistan, thousands of Pakistanis who had gone to Iran to visit holy sites had been stranded in different cities of Iran, including Qom and Mashhad.

The Pakistani border authorities also did not allow Pakistani pilgrims and other travellers, who reached Taftan for proceeding to Iran, to cross the border and asked them to postpone their journey until further orders. A large number of pilgrims, who have come to Quetta from different cities of Pakistan for travel to Iran, have also been stuck in Quetta due the border closure.

The Balochistan home minister said that the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the health department were jointly taking precautionary measures to prevent the people from falling prey to the deadly coronavirus in the border districts of Balochistan.

He said that a 100-bed tent hospital, four mobile health units (set up in containers) and 10 ambulances had been sent to Taftan as most of the travellers, including pilgrims, businesspersons and tourists, used Taftan for crossing the border.

Meanwhile, an isolation ward has been established in the Gwadar Development Authority Hospital. Deputy Commissioner of Gwadar retired captain Mohammad Wasim said that testing kits had also been provided to the staff at Gwadar airport and the border crossing to screen travellers.

According to Additional Deputy Commissioner of Chagai Badal Khan Dashti, 100 pilgrims lodged in Pakistan House at Taftan have been screened by doctors.

Taftan-based Levies Force officials said until the quarantine facilities were not established at the border, it would remain closed.

Following an order by the director general of the provincial health department, the district health officer of Chagai has constituted a task force to monitor the coronavirus-related situation in the district. Local officials of the health department said every individual coming from Iran would be kept in isolation for 14 days to ascertain if he or she had been infected by coronavirus or not.

-MN Report

February 24, 2020

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