ISLAMABAD: Pakistan announced on Friday that — from Monday — it will seal its borders with Afghanistan and Iran for an initial period of two weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement was made after a meeting of the country’s National Security Council (NSC) in Islamabad, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by key ministers and all military service chiefs. The decision was taken, according to a statement, “in the best interest of all three brotherly countries.”
It was the first time in the history of Pakistan that the NSC has met to discuss the nation’s response to a contagious disease.
The move to seal the Afghanistan-Pakistan border will potentially affect millions of people, as there are huge numbers of Afghan refugees living on the Pakistani side of the border. Afghanistan also relies heavily on food imports from Pakistan.
Alongside the border closure, Shafqat Mahmood, the education minister, announced that all educational institutions in Pakistan, including religious seminaries, will be closed until April 5. International flights into Pakistan are not expected to be affected at this time, AFP reported.
Pakistan’s response is in keeping with that of many other countries around the world as governments attempt to slow the global spread of coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization this week.
Pakistan has, at the time of writing, recorded 21 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and no deaths. Two people are known to have recovered from the virus.
However, fewer than 500 of the country’s estimated 215 million people have reportedly been tested, and Pakistan’s health care has repeatedly been found to be inadequate in many areas of the country.
Amid all the fears, quarantines and stockpiling of food, it has been easy to ignore the fact that more than 60,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus spreading around the globe.
The disease can cause varying degrees of illness and is especially troublesome for older adults and people with existing health problems, who are at risk of severe effects, including pneumonia. But for most of those affected, coronavirus creates only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, with the vast majority recovering from the virus.