Pakistan coronavirus
Pakistan authorities are on high alert after two cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Wednesday. Image Credit: Social media

Dubai: Soon after two confirmed cases of coronavirus surfaced on Wednesday, Pakistan has shut schools in Balochistan and Sindh provinces as precautionary measures.

The Balochistan government announced to close down schools and religious madrasas until March 15 while the Sindh government announced to keep the schools closed for two days including February 27 and 28. The move came to ensure schoolchildren are protected against coronavirus.

The notification issued by the Balochistan government clarified that all public and private educational institutes, as well as madrasas, would remain closed after two coronavirus cases were confirmed in Pakistan — one each in Karachi and Islamabad.

“Matriculation Examination under Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education are also being postponed and the remaining exams will be organised in due course of time,” the official notification reads.

Situation in Balochistan is more alarming as it has a long border with Iran where 22 people have died of Coronavirus while more than 140 have been reported to be infected until Wednesday. Pakistan also closed its Taftan border with Iran early this week and set up a quarantine facility at the border.

In a video message, Balochistan Education Minister Abdul Rahim Khan Ziaratwa said: “The ongoing examinations of Grade 9 and Matriculation are also suspended. We want to keep our children safe.

This step has only been taken as a safety measure and no one needs to panic.” reported Geo TV.

On the other hand, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani also announced that the schools in the province would remain closed on Thursday and Friday.

Ghani tweeted: “Sindh Govt has decided to close all the schools of province for Thursday & Friday (27th & 28 Feb).”

“We have shut down schools for two days, which will be followed by Saturday and Sunday. If the situation remains stable and we will reopen schools on Monday,” he added.

Two confirmed Covid-19 cases

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed late Wednesday that two coronavirus cases were reported in Pakistan. “Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Dr Mirza emphasised that there was no need to panic [as] things are under control and that no one should share information of the patient.

The patient in Karachi, as well as his family, was immediately placed in quarantine at a private hospital on the National Stadium Road while the one in Islamabad was moved to the capital’s Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

The first confirmed coronavirus patient, a 22-year-old man, had arrived by air from Iran and has a history of travel to Tehran from where he reportedly acquired the virus, a spokesperson for the Sindh health department said. The second case was confirmed at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad.

Both people had recently travelled to Iran as part of large groups of pilgrims from Pakistan's Shi'ite Muslim community.

Health officials have said both were "stable." Authorities have also begun to trace nearly 8,000 pilgrims who recently returned to the country from Iran.

Flights between Pakistan and Iran suspended

Pakistan's Civil Aviation said it was suspending all flight operations with Iran starting from Thursday evening till further notice. "We have decided to close the flights with Iran," the aviation's spokesman Sattar Khokhar told Reuters.

Three Iranian carriers run seven flights a week to and from Pakistan.

Sindh's Provincial Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the 28 pilgrims whom the first cases were part of had been traced and would be scanned and monitored.

"We're going to the next step," he told a news conference in Karachi, adding that the Sindh government was out to trace all the 1,500 people who had returned to his province from Iran in the month of February. There are a total 8,000 such pilgrims across the country, he said.

"We're locating each one of them," Shah said, adding they will go through 15 days of strict monitoring before being allowed to leave their homes. Shah said all these people and anyone who had got in touch with them had to be isolated.

The authorities, who have kept more than 200 of the pilgrims in quarantine at the border, have stepped up scanning measures at airports and other border crossing, including western Afghanistan, said government health adviser Zafar Mirza.

Withi inputs by agencies