By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan decided on Wednesday to seal all entry points to the mountainous Chitral Valley in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province to protect the region from the coronavirus outbreak.
Lower Chitral and Upper Chitral, the two districts of the landlocked area that borders Afghanistan and the northern Gilgit Baltistan region, have no COVID-19 cases so far.
“Chitral has no coronavirus case yet so we have taken this decision to protect the area and its inhabitants,” Ajmal Wazir, a spokesman for the KP government, told Anadolu Agency.
He said no one from outside the area will be allowed to enter Chitral’s two districts, which are home to over four million people.
However, another official clarified that entry of non-residents will be completely barred, but residents returning from other areas will undergo quarantine.
“We have set up quarantine centers for locals who are coming back from cities with confirmed coronavirus cases. They will have to stay in quarantine for 14 days,” said Rashid Chitrali, a local administration officer.
Hayat Khan, a resident of Chitral, said locals have appreciated the government’s intent to protect the scenic mountainous region.
He said their only concern was that students and sick people who were in other cities for treatment must be allowed to return home.
"Many students and other locals who were in Peshawar and Islamabad for medical reasons want to come back home. The government must help them. Most Chitrali people do not have the financial resources to afford hotel expenses," said Khan.
There were 188 confirmed and 683 suspected COVID-19 cases in KP province as of Wednesday afternoon, along with five deaths due to the coronavirus disease.
In total, Pakistan had 2,071 cases, 26 fatalities, and 82 recoveries by Wednesday afternoon, according to data by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.