Pakistan has declared emergency in the areas bordering Iran amid fears of transfer of coronavirus into the country.
Iran on Saturday ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres after the number of people infected with the deadly virus rose to 28 with five fatal cases.
Due to the fear of COVID-19 epidemic transferring to the country, the Baluchistan government declared an emergency in the border districts.
Staff and medical equipment have also been sent to the border town of Taftan, through which hundreds of people cross into the city daily.
According to the provincial health department, a team has been sent from Quetta to the city to train local officials.
A camp has also been set up.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran first surfaced on Wednesday, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a city south of the capital.
Baluchistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani spoke with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday to discuss the steps his government is taking to control the virus spreading over the border into the province.
“Had communication with PM and federal health minister on coronavirus from first day all precautionary steps being taken,” he tweeted, adding that dedicated teams were fully vigilant with all precautions in place for an emergency.
Khan told the chief minister to take all protective measures in the province along the porous border with Iran.
Alyani said that he is supervising all safety measures adopted by the provincial government.
Official sources said the provincial health department had established an emergency centre and a control room at the bordering town of Taftan.
“Two doctors are already working at the control room at Taftan,” said an official of the health department, adding that in view of reports about two deaths in Iran due to coronavirus, a team of seven doctors equipped with thermal guns had been deployed at Taftan to carry out screening of pilgrims and other people crossing into Pakistan from Iran.
“The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and health department are establishing a 100-bed tent hospital at Taftan to provide medical treatment to the suspected passengers,” he said.
Sources said that special teams of the National Institute of Health (NIH) were scheduled to arrive in Baluchistan to give training to the health staff and the doctors regarding safety precautions.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza also reached out to the Baluchistan chief minister and assured all help and co-operation with the provincial government.
The provincial health department has issued directives for the pilgrims returning from Iran to carry out their medical check-up in nearby hospitals, if they are suffering from cough and high temperature.
The sources said that doctors would also be sent to other bordering districts of Baluchistan with Iran, including Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Mashkeel.
NIH executive director Major-General Dr Aamer Ikram said that all stakeholders had attended a meeting in Islamabad to discuss the issue with reference to the deaths in Iran due to coronavirus.
“Within no time four persons have died in Qom [located 140km to the south of Tehran] and virus has reached there. We need to be on toes as the virus can enter Pakistan due to porous border,” he said.
Meanwhile, parents and relatives of Pakistanis stranded in China held a news conference in Islamabad and said their children would die out of fear if not due to the virus.
They urged the government to bring back Pakistanis without any delay.
They also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan and the army chief to play their role in bringing back Pakistanis from China.
They alleged that the ministry of national health services was deliberately delaying the issue, claiming that their children in China did not even have drinking water.
Rubina Riaz, a relative of a student in China, said that the parents are ready to bring their children from China at their own expense and that they only wanted permission from the government.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan suspended travel to neighbouring Iran as fears across the region continued to grow over an increase in new coronavirus infections.
Millions of Afghan refugees currently live in the Islamic Republic – raising fears that the virus could easily spread over the border.
“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 office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Desperate and jobless Afghans have crossed the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support their struggling families back home.
But hundreds of thousands of Afghans have returned home in recent years as US sanctions have battered the Iranian economy.
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