ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday suspended all walk-in consular services except attestation of power of attorney from today (March 18) to April 3.

The decision was taken as “necessary precaution to deal with the rising threat of pandemic viral disease Covid-19,” said a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The facility of attestation of documents, however, will be continued through courier companies like Pakistan Post, Gerry’s, Leopard and TCS.

With 90 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, the number of COVID-19 patients in Pakistan reached 193 yesterday.

According to the Ministry of Health, new cases were reported in the Punjab, southern Sindh and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to health officials most of the new patients had recently returned from neighboring Iran, which has the highest number of cases and deaths after China and Italy.

The government has also closed the Kartarpur Corridor in Punjab to Pakistani visitors, but the restriction does not apply to Indian Sikh pilgrims.

The virus emerged in Wuhan, China last December, and has spread to at least 146 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Out of 173,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 6,600, while more than 77,500 patients have recovered, according to Worldometer, a website that compiles new case numbers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established a special cell for coordination on Covid-19 under the supervision of Special Secretary (Administration) to liaise with the diplomatic corps in Pakistan as well as with missions abroad.

“All our missions have established hotlines displayed at their individual websites,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said.

The Foreign Ministry will review the decision of suspension of services after the mentioned period, she added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said China and Pakistan are committed to advance construction of CPEC, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In an interview, he said the impact of coronavirus would be very limited and expressed confidence that all the projects being constructed under CPEC would be completed on time.

Regarding President Dr Arif Alvi’s current visit to China, he said it would further cement the historic bonds of trust and mutual support between the two all-weather friends.