PESHAWAR - Fearing further coronavirus spread, the polio vaccination campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa scheduled from March 16 to 20 has been suspended on Thursday.

According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department, about 1.3 million children below the age of five years were to get polio vaccination drops in district Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi and Mohmand tribal district.

As the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is following the principle of social distancing and also advising the public to do so amid the spread of coronavirus, the vaccination campaign in such a situation cannot be carried out effectively.

This is first time polio vaccination campaign is suspended in Pakistan due to the spread of another viral disease.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has already slashed office timings, imposed ban on public gatherings, closed wedding halls and barbershops and asked restaurants to offer only takeaway food as precautionary measures. Similarly, markets will also close early. However, food and medicines shops will remain open. Likewise, public parks and tourist places have also been shut and employees above 50 years of age have been sent on paid leave.

The Torkham border with Afghanistan has also been closed and isolation wards have been set up for coronavirus patients in major hospitals. So far 304 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Pakistan, in which Sindh province remains the most affected province with 211 cases, followed by Punjab with 33 cases, Balochistan with 23 cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 19 cases, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan with 16 cases and Islamabad with two confirmed cases.

The two confirmed deaths have been reported from the virus in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Earlier, a death was also reported from Gilgit-Baltistan from coronavirus, but the government soon retracted the statement, saying that the patient died due to other reason and the spokesperson broke the news without confirmation.