Torkham border shut to stem Covid spread

Interior minister says border to remain closed until fresh guidelines from NCOC

Our Correspondent July 06, 2021
Torkham Gate Pakistan. PHOTO: RP


The interior ministry on Tuesday closed the Torkham border point for all kinds of movement due to the coronavirus on directives of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in order to stem the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The closure of the country’s border with Afghanistan came a day after Dr Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to prime minister on health, said that there had been a “small but definitive uptick in [coronavirus] cases, percentage positivity and other parameters” in the country.

In a meeting on Monday, the NCOC was informed that 3,000 Afghan students had started arriving in Pakistan. The forum also noted that effective coronavirus testing had been arranged and the students found positive would be sent back, while the rest would observe quarantine for 10 days.

However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced in a tweet on Tuesday that Torkham border had been closed. “On the advise of the NCOC all types of immigration departure and arrival will be close from today at torkham Border till the fresh Guidelines of NCOC,” he wrote on Twitter.

Read more: Covid rears its ugly head

At present, the country is grappling with the post-third Covid-19 wave, which started subsiding in the later half of May. This led to the authorities to lift several coronavirus-induced restrictions, and allowing resumption of educational activities, including examinations.

On Tuesday, the NCOC, which serves as the synchronised government effort against the pandemic, said in its daily update of the disease that during the past 24 hours, active Covid-19 cases rose slightly to 33,390, including 1,968 patients in critical condition. The national positivity ratio was 2.22%.

The NCOC said 830 more people tested positive for the virus and 714 people recovered from the disease during the past 24 hours. In that period, it added, 74 infected persons were admitted to various Covid-dedicated hospitals in critical condition.

The bulletin said that 25 patients, of them 23 in hospitals, including 12 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide death toll from the infectious disease to 22,452. It added that most of the deaths, 10, occurred in Punjab, followed by 8 in Sindh.

The national caseload of the disease since it broke out in February 2020 rose to 964,490, including 908,648 people making full recovery. A total of 14,815,639 coronavirus tests had been conducted so far, the NCOC added.

More vaccine on way

A special plane of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) airlifted 2 million doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from the Beijing Capital International Airport to Islamabad on Tuesday. Sources said around 2 million more doses would be brought to Pakistan from China in the next few days.

Up to 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine had already arrived in Pakistan from China while another 1.3 million doses of the same vaccine are expected to reach the country very soon. Pakistan has been using mainly Chinese vaccines namely Sinopharm and Sinovac, although others are also available.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Tuesday handed over seven containers of Covid-19 supplies to the Afghan government to help fight the pandemic.

The handover ceremony was held at the Torkham border which was attended by Afghan and Pakistani health officials while Chief Customs Collector Asif Mehmood Jah attended the event as the chief guest.

Addressing the ceremony, the customs official said Pakistan has always stood shoulder to shoulder with Afghan citizens during testing times and Islamabad would extend all possible assistance to Kabul to cope with Covid-19.

The trade activities between the two countries suffered a lot due to the pandemic and added that with the cooperation from the two sides the trade activities would be enhanced once the situation returns to normal, Asif Mehmood added.

The customs collector said both the neighbouring countries can deal with the Covid-19 pandemic if people get vaccinated against coronavirus.

Speaking on the occasion, Afghan Consulate Commercial Attaché Fawad Asghar said that the pandemic has badly affected the livelihood of Afghanistan, adding with the cooperation of friendly countries the situation would return to normal.

The Afghan official said that Afghanistan is in dire need of oxygen as the country is grappling with the third wave of the pandemic triggered by new virus variants.

The seven containers compromising medicines, oxygen cylinders, ventilators and other accessories were handed to Afghan commercial attaché.



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