Pakistan suspends Iran flights over coronavirus threat

This undated file photo shows a general view of Islamabad Airport. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistan suspends Iran flights over coronavirus threat

  • Two people, who recently traveled from Iran, tested positive for the virus
  • Officials say the flight operation has been stopped until further notice

KARACHI: The government of Pakistan has decided to suspend flights to and from Iran after the emergence of coronavirus cases in the country, said a senior official of the aviation division on Thursday.

“The Aviation Division has decided to stop all direct flights between Pakistan and Iran with effect from 12am tonight until further notice,” said the department’s spokesperson, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, while talking to Arab News.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah urged the federal government to immediately suspend Iran flights after two people, who recently returned from that country, were found suffering from the coronavirus infection.

“The flight operations to Iran is yet to be stopped,” he said while briefing the media about the measures taken by his administration to deal with the situation. “I request the federal minister of aviation to immediately halt flights from Iran.”

Two coronavirus cases were reported in Pakistan on Wednesday, and one of the people was confirmed to be a resident of Karachi in Sindh province.

“One case has been reported in Sindh, whereas the second person tested positive in federal areas,” State Minister for Health Zafar Mirza said during a press conference in Quetta and answered “maybe” when asked if he was referring to Islamabad.

Both the persons traveled to Iran in the past 14 days, Mirza said, adding that they were in stable condition.

The coronavirus patient in Sindh has been identified as a 22-year-old resident of Karachi who is already quarantined.

The man “and other members of his family have been quarantined at a private hospital,” Meeran Yousuf, spokesperson of the Sindh health department, told Arab News, adding that the patient arrived in Karachi on a flight from Mashhad on Feb. 20.

The development followed the establishment of isolation wards in hospitals and closure of education institutes for two days in Sindh.

In Balochistan, which borders Iran, all education institutes have been temporarily closed until March 15 “as a precaution to protect children from the coronavirus,” the province’s education directorate announced in a circular on Wednesday.

The Sindh chief minister said in his press briefing that a separate health center with isolation facilities would soon be established in the province.

Shah said the data acquired from the aviation department confirmed that around 8,000 passengers had traveled from Iran, adding that 1,500 of them had arrived in Karachi and all of them would be contacted for screening.

“A group of 28 people who had traveled along the coronavirus patient has also been identified and will be approached for screening,” Shah said, informing that the person suffering from the virus had been shifted to an isolated place from the Aga Khan Hospital.

Meanwhile, speaking to Arab News, Assistant Commissioner of Taftan Najibullah Qambrani said that a tent-hospital had been set up in the border area. “The border remains closed for the fifth consecutive day and no one is allowed to enter Pakistan,” he said.

Iran has the highest coronavirus toll outside of China. The country’s health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Wednesday that 19 people had died from the illness, with 139 confirmed cases in the country.

The World Health Organization says the virus had infected more than 80,000 people around the world, causing over 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.

Experts are concerned that Iran may be under-reporting coronavirus cases and deaths.


More than 12,000 could be infected with virus, Pakistan’s health chief says

Updated 13 min 9 sec ago

More than 12,000 could be infected with virus, Pakistan’s health chief says

  • Confirmed cases soar to 1,500, with Punjab province emerging as new epicenter for deadly disease 
  • Majority of infected people had recently returned from Iran 

ISLAMABAD: With 14 dead and new infections reported everyday, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, said on Saturday that more than 12,218 people were suspected of having coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country.

“[There are] 7,180 people in quarantine facilities across the country, out of these we conducted the tests for 3,157 and 799 were positive,” Mirza said, adding that Pakistan’s mortality rate is still “very low as compared to other countries.”

On Sunday, the number of confirmed infections rose to more than 1,526, with Punjab province emerging as the new epicenter of the deadly disease in the country.

“Confirmed cases include 558 in Punjab, 481 in Sindh, 188 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 138 in Balochistan, 116 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 43 in Islamabad and 2 in Azad Kashmir,” information posted on a government portal showed on Sunday.

According to the official data, 28 people have recovered from the disease while 11 were still in critical condition.

A majority of the infected people are from those who returned from Iran recently, where the confirmed number of cases are reported to be over 35,000 with more than 2,500 deaths recorded thus far.

Moeed Yusuf, adviser on security, said on Saturday that Pakistan’s eastern border (with India) and western borders (with Iran and Afghanistan) would remain closed for two more weeks.

However, according to immigration documents seen by Arab News, despite the closure of the border, 113 pilgrims crossed into Balochistan from Iran on Thursday, bringing the total number of people – entering Pakistan through the Taftan border – to 6,080, since February.