QUETTA: After the government’s decision to close Pakistan border with Iran where novel coronavirus has claimed at least 12 lives, all activities at Taftan and four other entry points remained suspended on Monday.
According to officials, around 200 Pakistani pilgrims, who were scheduled to return to the country, were not allowed to cross the border by Pakistani authorities. They are now stranded in the Iranian border town of Mirjaveh.
“Around 200 pilgrims are waiting to enter Pakistan, but the border is closed and all offices of immigration, customs and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) are closed,” an FIA official told Dawn.
According to sources, the stranded Pakistani pilgrims informed the authorities that they had reached the border with the permission of the Iranian government. But the Pakistani authorities urged their Iranian counterparts that these people should be shifted to isolation centres in Iran and kept there for 14 days before their entry into Pakistan.
Officials of the health department and the administrations of Pakistan’s border districts have denied detecting any case of coronavirus. They said the government had adopted all precautionary measures and kept a watchful eye on borders.
“No one can enter Pakistan without proper screening at all entry points,” a security official told Dawn.
The sources said pilgrims and other people who had crossed into Pakistan before the border with Iran were closed had been put under observation. They will spend 14 days in an isolation facility.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Balochistan government has said that around 5,000 Pakistani pilgrims are still in Iran. They are scheduled to return to the country before March 15, but the provincial government has announced that they will not be allowed to cross the border without their complete screening for coronavirus and obtaining a clearance certificate from the Iranian government.
After closing of the borders between the two countries, hundreds of travellers were stranded on both the sides.
The pilgrims in Pakistan are being screened for coronavirus at a medical facility established by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the health department.
Meeting reviews situation
After the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Iran, all stakeholders in Pakistan sat together in Islamabad on Monday to review the situation and device a strategy.
According to a statement of the Ministry of National Health Services, the meeting was jointly chaired by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri. It was attended by representatives of Pakistan Army and National Institute of Health and the federal information secretary. There was also provincial representation in the meeting through video links.
During the meeting efforts of Iran to control coronavirus were appreciated and it was decided to increase efforts for stop the spread of virus through the Pak-Iran border.
Dr Mirza said that so far over 100 samples had been tested and all were found negative.
“We can surely say that Pakistan is free from coronavirus,” he said.
Ikram Junaidi from Islamabad also contributed to this story
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020