Pakistan: Land Border Restrictions and COVID Concerns

Islamabad | Pakistani authorities have closed land borders with Afghanistan and Iran and limited international flights ahead of several weeks considered critical in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The measures were announced just days before Eid al-Adha, the Muslim end of fasting, traditionally accompanied by massive urban-rural displacement and the return of migrant and Pakistani workers to the country overseas. …

The government is also closely monitoring the disastrous health situation in neighboring India for fears it could spill over to Pakistan.

The unit responsible for coordinating the fight against coronavirus announced on Sunday the upcoming closure of land borders with Afghanistan and Iran, except for trade.

The civil aviation authorities previously announced that 80 percent of flights, mostly from the Middle East, will be suspended for two weeks from Wednesday until mid-May, when the US holiday ends.

Flights to India, which is currently battling a second wave of COVID-19, have been canceled and borders closed prior to the outbreak due to political tensions between the two countries.

Pakistan has reported nearly 800,000 positive coronavirus cases and 18,000 deaths. While many experts believe the numbers are actually much higher and the number of tests is limited, it is still quite small for a country of 220 million.

But non-compliance with the rules for wearing masks and social distancing measures worry the authorities, while only a small part of the population is vaccinated, and resistance to vaccination is high.

Planning Minister Assad Umar, who coordinated the government’s actions, said the next two weeks will be “decisive.” Pakistan experienced a peak in pollution last year after Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.

This year, mosques remained open again during the month of Ramadan, with few following government guidelines for social distancing during large parishioners’ gatherings after dark.

Stricter restrictions were also imposed on shops and restaurants, as well as private gatherings, as the military was called in to enforce these rules.

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