A general view of the Pak-Iran border at Taftan town. File
Tariq Butt, Staff Reporter
Pakistan temporarily closed its border with Iran at Taftan on Sunday as the number of casualties from the novel coronavirus in the neighbouring country rose to eight.
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Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove told a private TV channel that the border was temporarily closed by the authorities in light of reports of coronavirus deaths in Iran.
"Yes we have closed the border," Langove confirmed.
The Balochistan government has also imposed emergency and a ban on the travel of pilgrims from Pakistan into Iran by road and has asked the provincial home department to coordinate with other provinces in this regard.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has talked to Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani and discussed options to stop the virus from entering the country. He told the chief minister to take all protective measures in the province along the porous border with Iran.
Alyani said that he was supervising all safety measures adopted by the provincial government.
Officials said the provincial health department had established an emergency centre and a control room at the border town of Taftan.
"Two doctors were 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.
Officials said that special teams of the National Institute of Health (NIH) were scheduled to arrive in Balochistan 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 Balochistan chief minister and assured all help and cooperation 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 suffering from cough and temperature.
The officials said doctors would also be sent to other bordering districts of Balochistan with Iran, including Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Mashkeel.
NIH Executive Director Maj Gen 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 our toes as the virus can enter Pakistan due to the porous border,” he said.
"Moreover, it is a very sensitive issue, due to religious sensitivity as a large number of pilgrims go to Iran. We cannot seal the border as it will create a huge problem for us. So it has been decided to send a team of experts on Monday to Balochistan to further train the staff at points of entry,” he said.
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