February 24, 2020
Following the closure of Pakistan’s border with Iran, 270 persons who entered the country via the Taftan crossing in Balochistan have been quarantined for two weeks, an official told Arab News on Monday.
“We have quarantined 270 and the border is now completely closed. We will continue to quarantine incoming (persons),” said Najeebullah Qambrani, assistant commissioner of Taftan, adding that none of the persons will be allowed to travel to the rest of Pakistan until they have completed the quarantine period.
Pakistan has sealed its land border with Iran and stopped pilgrims from traveling via Taftan border as well as five other crossings after 12 coronavirus deaths were reported in the neighboring country.
The move followed Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision on Saturday to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran.
“Currently 5,000 pilgrims are present in Iran. We have requested Iran to send them only after screening and ensuring that they are tested negative for the virus,” Balochistan government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani told Arab News.
He denied reports of coronavirus-positive cases in Pakistan.
Iran has the highest coronavirus death toll outside China. Meanwhile, in neighboring Afghanistan, three persons have tested positive for the virus. All of them arrived from Iran.
Pakistan has stopped all movement from crossing points, launched screening procedures and introduced additional patrolling along the border “until the situation is under control,” Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove told Arab News on Sunday.
“We are trying to take every possible precaution,” the minister said, adding that these were efforts being taken by the provincial government, with assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan that the federal government would be extending help as well.
There are several shrines in Iran which are frequented by a large number of Shiite Muslims from Pakistan. Hundreds of people access the Taftan border crossing between the countries on a daily basis.
The Religious Affairs Ministry held a meeting with health officials and Shia clerics on Monday to discuss the pilgrimage amid the ongoing virus outbreak.
“We had a detailed meeting in which we deliberated over the issue. The coronavirus is spreading like epidemic in our neighboring country,” Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, the minister for religious affairs, told media after the meeting. “We also remain in contact with Iranian authorities while making policy.”
The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 25 countries, with more than 2,500 dead in China.