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India, Pakistan take measures to contain coronavirus

India and Pakistan continued to receive new coronavirus cases, prompting authorities to take emergency measures to contain the further spread of the coronavirus.

Declared coronavirus an epidemic, India on Thursday closed all schools, colleges and cinema theaters until March 31.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a travel ban on his Cabinet members, a move viewed as part of New Delhi’s efforts to contain the coronavirus cases in the world’s second most populated country.

“No minister of the central government will travel abroad in the upcoming days. I urge our countrymen to also avoid non-essential travel. We can break the chain of spread and ensure the safety of all by avoiding large gatherings,” Modi said in a series of tweets.

He urged the nation to not panic and take precautions as the coronavirus cases rose to 74, including 17 foreign nationals. Three of these cases were recovered.

On Wednesday, the Indian government announced a suspension of all existing visas, except for diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, till April 15, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13.

According to the Health Ministry, India has screened more than 1 million passengers at airports.

Figures released by the ministry on Thursday revealed New Delhi evacuated 900 Indian citizens along with 48 belonging to other nationalities like Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa, and Peru. In addition, 83 evacuees from Italy who arrived on Wednesday, have been put at a quarantine facility.

“All incoming travelers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after 15th February 2020 shall be quarantined for minimum 14 days,” said a statement by the ministry.

New case in Pakistan

One more person in Pakistan tested positive for the new coronavirus, raising the total number of patients to 21, an official said.

The new case has been reported from northern Skardu valley — a famous tourist destination — that borders neighboring China, Shah Ramzan, an official of the Health Department confirmed.

Like most of previous cases, the 31-year-old man has a history of traveling to neighboring Iran, which has reported highest number of deaths after China, and Italy.

Of 21 cases, 15 has been reported from southern Sindh province, mainly in Karachi, the provincial capital. The remaining cases have been reported from capital Islamabad, southwestern Balochistan province, and northern Gilgit-Baltistan region. Two of them have been recovered so far.

In a related development, Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned a special meeting of the National Security Council, a body comprising top civil and military leadership, to discuss measures against the coronavirus, local broadcaster Dunya News reported.

The government has decided to hold the remaining matches of the ongoing Pakistan Super League cricket tournament without spectators from Friday.

The Balochistan government has further extended the closure of educational institutions in the province until March 31.

The WHO on Wednesday declared coronavirus a global pandemic.

The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 4,600, with over 124,500 confirmed cases, according to the world health body.

The virus originated in China’s central Wuhan city last December and has spread to 114 countries so far.

As part of efforts to contain the outbreak, many governments closed borders and suspended land and air travel with the worst-hit countries

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