GILGIT / QUETTA: As the government began a weeklong closure of the border with Afghanistan at Chaman in Balochistan on Monday after the war-torn country reported its novel coronavirus cases, a fifth case of the disease was confirmed in Pakistan in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The new patient was identified as a 45-year-old female resident of Gilgit. Her samples, referred to the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, from the Gilgit district hospital on Saturday, tested positive. The patient has been admitted to an isolated ward of the hospital.
It also emerged that three of the five Pakistani patients belong to Gilgit-Baltistan while the rest to Karachi.
According to health officials, samples of at least 12 suspected patients have been sent to the NIH Islamabad for the coronavirus test. The GB health department lacks facilities to conduct such tests.
On Monday evening, the GB government announced that government and private educational institutions would remain closed till March 7 as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan at Chaman was closed on Monday as a precautionary measure against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The Ministry of Interior issued an official notification on Sunday, announcing closure of the border initially for seven days.
All business and trade activities at the Chaman border remained completely suspended. Offices of immigration, customs, transports and other relevant establishments remained closed.
Security forces deployed at the border closed the Friendship Gate and tightened security at the border its adjoining areas.
The Afghan transit trade and Nato supplies for US troops stationed in Afghanistan also remained suspended.
Nato oil tankers and vehicles loaded with goods had already been shifted to safe places away from the Customs House.
A large number of people who did not know about the closure of the border arrived at both sides of the border crossing in Chaman and Vesh, but no one was allowed to even come close to the Friendship Gate. Among them were some Afghan patients, including women and children, who wanted to cross the border for receiving medical treatment in Pakistani hospitals. But, they were not allowed entry in Pakistan.
“We will strictly implement orders of the interior ministry about the closure of the border with Afghanistan and would not allow anyone to enter Pakistan,” a security official told Dawn. The Afghan government has been informed about the decision of the Pakistan government. “There will be no activity at the Pak-Afghan border till March 9,” he added.
Official sources said that security forces had been deployed also at other entry points along the Chaman border.
Doctors and officials of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority were present at the border. They screened over 10,000 people who crossed into Pakistan during the last one week for the coronavirus. “No one was found infected with the coronavirus,” officials of the health department said.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority officials said that isolation centres had already been established in Chaman and Qila Abdullah to deal with the situation.
With the closure of the Chaman border trade activities have also been affected in the border town where no hustle and bustle was witnessed on Monday.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020