Commuters wear face masks on a street in Karachi on Monday. AFP
Tariq Butt / Agence France-Presse
Pakistan's southern province of Sindh extended the closure of all educational institutions following the confirmation of a second coronavirus case in Karachi, the country's largest city.
Meanwhile, the licences of 25 private education institutes in Karachi that were open on Monday despite the Sindh government's order a day earlier to close in light of the coronavirus outbreak have been suspended.
Pakistan also closed one of its two border crossings with Afghanistan on Monday in wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.
Officials said the Chaman/Spinboldak crossing point closed, but a second point at Torkhum in the northwest would remain open.
The Pak-Afghan border at Chaman will remain closed for seven days "in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus on both sides of the border in the best interest of the people of the brotherly countries,” said a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, while presiding over a meeting of the Task Force on coronavirus in Karachi, had ordered to keep all educational institutions, including tuition and coaching centres, across the province closed till March 13 — the deadline for completion of the isolation period of suspected patients of coronavirus.
The chief minister said strict action would be taken against those educational institutions who defied the order, which was important in the times of an emergency.
Health and aviation officials pose for a photograph at Islamabad International Airport. Twitter photo
Meanwhile, in wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the federal government has installed automatic thermal scanners at major airports across Pakistan.
The Ministry of National Health Services joined hands with the Aviation Division to install the scanners at the New Islamabad International Airport, Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport and the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar.
The thermal scanners, equipped to detect temperatures of passengers at the security checkpoints, are part of the screening mechanism put in place at all points of entry. The health and regular surveillance staff have been provided with protection equipment and kits.
Pakistan has confirmed four cases of coronavirus, three of them involving people who had traveled to neighbouring Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak that began in China in December.
While two of the confirmed cased were in the southern port city of Karachi, the other two were in the capital Islamabad.
Schools in Sindh have been closed since Thursday, after the first case in Karachi was confirmed.
"The Sindh government has decided to keep the schools closed till March 13, so the isolation period of the suspect cases could be completed," Saeed Ghani, provincial education minister told Reuters on Monday. "We don't want to take any risk."
Schools in Islamabad have remained open, but the thinly populated western province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran, closed its schools last week.
A press release issued by the director general for private institutions of the provincial education and literacy department, Dr Mansoob Hussain Siddiqui said that an inspection was carried out in parts of the city, including Korangi, Landhi, Gulshan-e-Hadid, Nazimabad and North Karachi, and around 25 schools were found to be op
Pakistan suspended all flights with Iran and closed the land border last week.
Health Minister Zafar Mirza has said that government is gradually allowing pilgrims to return from Iran, after holding them in quarantine at the border for 14 days.
Around 700 pilgrims arrived in Karachi from Iran over the weekend, the Sindh chief minister's office said in a statement.
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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."
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