Pakistan cancels March 23 parade, seals borders amid coronavirus outbreak

Pakistan cancels March 23 parade, seals borders amid coronavirus outbreak

Islamabad (Agencies): Pakistan has decided to adopt a number of precautionary measures to contain the spread of novel coronavirus including cancelling the Pakistan Day parade scheduled for March 23 and sealing the country’s western border with Iran and Afghanistan.

The decision was taken by the country’s top civil and military leadership at a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), presided over Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Friday.

The NSC would hold its first meeting on Saturday (today). It comprises federal ministers for relevant ministries, chief ministers of all the provinces, chairman of the National Disaster Manage­ment Authority, surgeon general of Pakistan Army and representatives of Inter-Services Intelli­gence, ISPR and Directorate General Military Operations. Dr Mirza would be the convener of the committee.

The closure of the two borders will begin on March 16 “for an initial period of two weeks… in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in the best interest of all three brotherly countries”, the Ministry of Interior wrote to multiple inspector generals of Frontier Corps – a paramilitary force that operates in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – in a letter on Friday.

The NDMA has, meanwhile, been designated as the lead agency on operations related to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Punjab and Sindh governments have ordered the closure educational institutes, wedding halls, shrines and festivals across the provinces.

The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan of COVID-19 has risen to 28 as of Friday night, after seven Pakistanis quarantined in Taftan were found to have been infected.

Globally, more than 5,000 people have died and more than 140,000 infected globally by COVID-19 as the disease spreads rapidly in new territories.

The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.