Students leave their school as it is closed by the provincial government that has announced two-day holidays for educational institutions in Karachi on Thursday. AFP
Tariq Butt / Agence France-Presse
Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.
The decision comes a day after two cases of coronavirus were reported in Pakistan. Both the infected people had recently visited Iran, where the number of people affected by the virus has grown drastically in the past few days. Health officials have said both were "stable."
Authorities shut schools in the southern province of Sindh, including the country's largest city Karachi where the first case was reported, and the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. They also began to trace nearly 8,000 pilgrims who recently returned to the country from Iran.
Road and rail movement between the two countries had already been suspended earlier in the week.
"Civil Aviation Division has decided to cease all direct flights between Pakistan and Iran till further notice," a message from aviation official Abdul Sattar Khokhar said.
Residents wear protective face masks as a prevention measure against the COVID-19 at a market in Quetta. AFP
The government has decided to continue flights to and from Saudi Arabia for passengers holding "iqama” or permanent Saudi nationalities. However, people wishing to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah or tourism will not be allowed on the flights.
The decision was taken in light of the Saudi government's decision to suspend Umrah and tourism operations in light of the growing number of coronavirus affectees all over the world.
A health worker checks the temperature of a man who returned from Iran at the border post in Taftan. Reuters
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also tweeted about these measures and said that while the national carrier will continue flight operations as usual, people with Umra or tourist visas will not be able to go to Saudi Arabia as "PIA will fully implement instructions given by the Saudi government".
Earlier, a flight coming from Oman was disembarked at the runway at Jinnah International Airport Karachi. The passengers were checked for the virus on the runway before they made their way to immigration and out of the airport.
The decision to disembark flights and check patients at the runway was taken at a meeting at the Chief Minister House on Thursday.
A city in China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the global coronavirus epidemic, will pay residents as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,425.96) if they proactively report symptoms of the illness and it is confirmed after testing.
Qianjiang, a city of around one million people located about 150km from the stricken provincial capital of Wuhan, has reported a total of 197 cases so far and is stepping up efforts to ensure its infected people are confined and treated.
Anger has been building up against the authorities in China over their early handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 3,300 people globally, most of them in China. The Fujian provincial government said that as of Friday, the province had 296 cases of coronavirus and 10,819 people had been placed under observation after being classified as suspected close contacts.
India has also closed a border with neighbouring Myanmar to counter the coronavirus outbreak, as countries across South Asia reported a rise in cases on Wednesday. No cases have so far been confirmed in Myanmar.
Coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.
The manuscripts included the journey of Ibn Battuta, the Arabic lexicon of Jacobus Julius, a Dutch orientalist from the seventeenth century, the Beginning of the World Creation by Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al Kisa’I, 30 Arabic books in medicine and philosophy as well as a group of correspondences in Portuguese.
Oman's initiative, effective from September, grants foreign investors and retirees the right to reside for long periods in the sultanate, the ministry added.
Heavy rain was witnessed in several areas of the UAE on Wednesday, bringing down the temperature by a few notches. Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, and Dibba — Masafi