KARACHI / ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
Pakistan on Friday closed all educational institutions across the country for the next three weeks amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the country's National Security Committee, presided by Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the capital Islamabad, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Twitter.
Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, heads of navy and air forces, and senior ministers also attended the meeting.
"It has been decided to close all educational institutions in the country till April 5," said Mahmood, adding that the Education Ministry would decide on March 27 whether to extend the closure, applying to all public and private schools, universities and vocational institutions.
International flights will only operate from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports in limited numbers, Pakistan's National Security Committee decided.
The much-expected decision came a day after the government of southern Sindh province - the worst hit by the novel virus in Pakistan -- announced closure of all the schools, colleges, and universities until May 31.
The Interior Ministry ordered the “complete” sealing of the country’s borders with neighboring Iran and Afghanistan from March 16 in line with the National Security Committee decision for an initial period of two weeks “in the best interest of the three brotherly countries.”
Also, the traditional Pakistan Day military parade, scheduled to be held on March 23, has been cancelled.
In addition, all the proceedings of the Senate, the upper house of the parliament, have also been postponed for the next two weeks, a Senate spokesperson said in a statement.
22 cases in Pakistan so far
Pakistan on Friday confirmed the country's first coronavirus case caused by an infection within the country, raising the total number of people with COVID-19 to 22.
In all the previous cases, the patients had a history of traveling to neighboring Iran and Syria.
Of total, 16 have been reported in Sindh province.
The remaining cases have been reported in the capital Islamabad, southwestern Balochistan province, and northern Gilgit-Baltistan region. Three of them have been recovered so far.
In a related development, some 10 foreign players starring in the ongoing Pakistan Super League cricket tournament have opted to leave Pakistan over coronavirus, said a statement from Pakistan Cricket Board.
The government already decided to hold the remaining league matches without spectators.
After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 123 countries and territories.
The global death toll is now over 5,000, with more than 132,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a pandemic.