Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the authorities to open the Chaman-Spinboldak border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and said that Islamabad would continue to support Kabul during the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite the global pandemic of Covid-19, we remain committed to supporting our Afghan brothers and sisters. I have given instructions to open the Chaman-Spinboldak border and let trucks crossover into Afghanistan,” the prime minister said in a tweet. “In this time of crisis, we remain steadfast with Afghanistan.”
Earlier, former Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah thanked Khan for keeping the Chaman-Boldak border open.
“I thank PM Imran and Pakistan government for accepting our people and traders’ call to keep the Chaman-Boldak border open for the flow of foodstuff and key commodities at this critical time,” Abdullah had tweeted.
He had added that Afghanistan highly appreciates this gesture as it further strengthens bilateral ties between the two countries.
Pakistan has reported at least 456 confirmed cases of coronavirus – which causes the Covid-19 disease – and two deaths.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has reported only 22 cases of the virus, making it one of the few countries in the world with a relatively low rate of coronavirus spread.
Globally, the virus has infected 176 countries with more than 10,000 people dead and more than 234,000 infected by the disease.
The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, with Italy surpassing China in the number of deaths on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the government remains undecided on whether to impose a nationwide lockdown.
More than 150 new cases were confirmed in the highest single-day increase since the outbreak reached the country last month, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said on Wednesday.
Officials have warned that the numbers would rise steeply in the coming days because of the poor conditions at government-run quarantine camps, where rooms contain several patients in close proximity.
Prime Minister Khan has called a meeting of the committee overseeing containment efforts to decide on whether to announce a national lockdown, health minister Mirza said.
“We will have to go for social distancing and a national lockdown ... the sooner we do that, the better it will be,” said Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh.
So far, the government has banned road travel between the provinces and almost halved the number of trains running, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said.
However, a complete lockdown is unlikely at this stage, he added.
The number of staff working at government offices has already been cut by 50%, and they are working on weekly rotas to curb the spread of the disease.
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