LAHORE               -          The Balochistan government on Sunday banned Pakistani passengers from traveling to Iran over coronavirus threat.

An official said that more than 100 passengers were called back to Quetta from Taftan on Sunday. The local government was also directed to establish special check-posts to stop people from traveling to Iran.

Earlier, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal had telephoned Prime Minister Imran Khan after Iran reported deaths from coronavirus. The CM informed PM that he was personally overseeing all the measures to prevent spread of coronavirus in the province and special teams were formed to prevent the outbreak. Jam Kamal further said that the District Health Officers were directed to take all precautions and special medical teams were also deployed in Taftan and other sensitive areas.

An official of the provincial government said authorities closed borders with Iran on Sunday after recently reported deaths and infections caused by the deadly virus in Iran.

The provincial government completely banned Pakistani pilgrims from traveling to Iran, he said. At least one hundred pilgrims were also called back to Quetta from the Taftan border. The movement of people along the border is being monitored strictly, he added. Reportedly, the minister for religious affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri also shared details of Pakistan’s measures to curb the virus outbreak with the Iranian authorities.

Iran shuts educational institutions as virus kills five

Iran on Saturday ordered the closure of schools, universities, and cultural centres after a coronavirus outbreak that has killed five people in the Islamic republic -- the most outside the Far East.

The moves came as Iranian authorities reported one more death among 10 new cases of the virus.

Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed 2,345 people in China, the epicentre of the epidemic, and 17 elsewhere in the world.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran first surfaced on Wednesday, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a holy city south of the capital. They were the first confirmed deaths from the virus in the Middle East. Iran reported two more deaths on Friday.

“We have 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Iran´s health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told state television on Saturday. “One of the new cases has unfortunately passed away,” he added, noting that eight of them had been hospitalised in Qom and two in Tehran, without specifying where the death occurred. The latest cases take to 28 the total number of confirmed infections in Iran. Based on official figures, nearly 18 percent of those infected with the new coronavirus in Iran have died, compared with little more than three percent in China.

As a “preventive measure”, authorities ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres in 14 provinces across the country from Sunday, state television reported. They include Qom, Markazi, Gilan, Ardabil, Kermanshah, Qazvin, Zanjan, Mazandaran, Golestan, Hamedan, Alborz, Semnan, Kurdistan and the capital, Tehran.

The government also announced that “all art and cinema events in halls across the country have been cancelled until the end of the week” in order to stop infections. “We are on the frontlines, we need help,” head of Qom´s medical sciences university said on state TV. “If I can say one thing, it is help Qom,” said Mohammadreza Ghadir.

The World Health Organization expressed concern over the speed at which COVID-19 has spread in Iran, as well as it being exported from the Islamic republic to other countries including Lebanon.