By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan has suspended flights to and from Iran for an indefinite period amid fears about the outbreak of deadly coronavirus.
The move came just 24 hours after Pakistan’s chief health official confirmed first two cases of the virus — one each in the port city of Karachi and the capital,Islamabad. Both the patients had recently returned from Iran.
The stranded citizens of both countries, however, may use a third-country route to return home, according to officials. However, the returning passengers would have to undergo screening at airports.
A round-the-clock coronavirus control room has also been set up at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) headquarters.
Three Iranian airlines operate seven weekly flights from and to Iran, whereas no Pakistani airline operates any flight to Iran.
Pakistan has already closed its border with Iran after the outbreak of Coronavirus in the western neighbouring country.
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) February 27, 2020
In a bid to prevent the spread of the viral disease, Pakistan’s provinces of Sindh and Balochistan have announced the closure of educational institutions.
In Punjab province, isolation centres have been set up in all the big cities including Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan to ensure timely quarantine of the suspects.
The novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has sounded global alarms, with China, the epicenter, reporting 2,700 deaths from the outbreak.
Outside mainland China, the coronavirus has spread to more than 45 countries, including the U.S., U.K. Italy, Singapore, France, Russia, Spain and India.
The U.S. has reported 53 confirmed cases; 40 were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was traveling in Asia, three were repatriated from China, and 14 were cases originating within U.S. borders, according to international media reports.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international health emergency.