Pakistan will close its border with Iran and Afghanistan in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus, the interior ministry said Friday.
The move is the latest such action as countries around the world act swiftly to restrict travel in an attempt to slow the global outbreak, which was this week declared a pandemic.
The closure of Pakistan’s porous border with Iran — where hundreds of people have died from the disease — and Afghanistan will start March 16.
To contain #CoronaOutbreak, Pakistan has decided to
– Close border with Iran and Afghanistan for 2 weeks
– Cancel the March 23 Pakistan Day parade
– Close all educational institutions in the country till April 5
— Sana Jamal (@Sana_Jamal) March 13, 2020
It will be for “an initial period of two weeks… in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in the best interest of all three brotherly countries”, Pakistan’s interior ministry said, using the scientific name for the highly communicable pathogen.
International flights into Pakistan are not expected to be affected at this time, officials said. The government also decided that only three airports in the country will cater to international flights. International flights will operate only at Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore airports for the time being.
Pakistan has only recorded 21 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and no deaths, but officials have tested fewer than 500 potential cases in the country of about 215 million people, where health care is frequently inadequate.
Also Friday, Pakistani authorities said they were closing all educational institutions across the country until April 5.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza, confirmed on Friday that seven new cases of the coronavirus had emerged in Pakistan. All seven cases were reported in Taftan and had been isolated, he said.
The move to seal the Afghanistan-Pakistan border could affect millions of people, with huge numbers of Afghan refugees living on the Pakistani side of the frontier.
Afghanistan also relies to a large extent on food imports from Pakistan.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk