Pakistan declares emergency in areas bordering Iran amid coronavirus fright

Pakistan has declared emergency in the areas bordering Iran amid fears of transfer of coronavirus into the country.

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Iran on Saturday ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres after the number of people infected with the deadly virus rose to 28 with five fatal cases.

Due to the fear of COVID-19 epidemic transferring to the country, the Balochistan government declared an emergency in the border districts. Staff and medical equipment have also been sent to the border town of Taftan, through which hundreds of people cross into the city daily.

According to the provincial health department, a team has been sent from Quetta to the city to train local officials. A camp has also been set up.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran first surfaced on Wednesday, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a city south of the capital.

PM Imran, CM Balochistan discuss coronavirus outbreak in Iran

Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal talked to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday to discuss the steps his government was taking to control the virus spreading over the border into the province.

“Had communication with PM and federal health minister on coronavirus… from first day all precautionary steps being taken,” he tweeted, adding that dedicated teams were fully vigilant with all precautions in place for an emergency.

Rise in number of foreign cases

Fears mounted Saturday over the rise of new cases and fatalities outside China from the new coronavirus outbreak, as the World Health Organisation warned of a shrinking window to stem the spread of the deadly disease.

The warning came as the first European died from the new COVID-19 strain, which first emerged in December in central China but has now spread to over 25 countries and caused over a dozen deaths outside the country.

A 78-year old Italian from the Veneto region died in the hospital after testing positive for the virus.

Italy has locked down ten towns and asked over 50,000 people to stay home amid a flurry of cases in the area — a move with echoes of China’s lockdown of entire cities in Hubei province at the centre of the outbreak.

In China, the number of cases outside Hubei, where millions remain under effective quarantine, has been generally declining, although new hotspots were found in several prisons and hospitals Friday.

But just 31 new cases were reported outside the central province Saturday, as the national number of cases rose past 76,000.

Meanwhile, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the “window of opportunity” to contain the international spread of the outbreak was “narrowing”, as cases surged across the Middle East and in South Korea.

He warned that if countries did not quickly mobilise to fight the spread of the virus, “this outbreak could go in any direction. It could even be messy.”

Cases of the deadly virus were reported in a range of countries in the Middle East on Friday, including the first cases in Israel and Lebanon.

Nearly 350 people have been infected in South Korea, including two deaths, making it the hardest-hit country outside China.

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