Omicron threat: Pakistan tightens travel restrictions

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) Monday imposed further restrictions on in-bound passengers to prevent the new COVID-19 variant from coming to Pakistan.

 

 

The measures were announced after a meeting of the NCOC that took stock of the prevalent COVID-19 situation across the globe in order to revise the policy for categorisation of air travel and the Category C list.

The authority  added eight more countries to the list of countries whose passengers are not allowed to travel to Pakistan due to the new COVID-19 variant.

The updated Category C list now includes Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The forum announced a complete ban on in-bound travel from Category C countries while essential travel from the above-mentioned destinations would necessitate obtaining an exemption certificate from the exemption committee with the following health protocols: –

  • 100% vaccination for all in-bound passengers.
  • All passengers aged 6 years and above (locals/foreigners) are required to be in possession of a negative PCR test report (max 48 hours old) before boarding. Deportees are exempted from PCR test/report requirements.
  • A rapid antigen test (RAT) on arrival at the airport for all in-bound passengers (6 years and above) travelling via direct/indirect flights from Category ‘C’ countries.
  • RAT negative cases will be allowed to proceed. However, RAT negative cases from Omicron variant countries mentioned at para 2 a (9) to (15) (South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia) will have to undergo a three-day mandatory quarantine period followed by a PCR test to be conducted on the 3rd day by the civil administration.
  •  RAT positive cases will be quarantined for 10 days. The PCR test of all RAT positive quarantined passengers will be undertaken on the 8th day of quarantine. In case of a negative result, passengers will be allowed to proceed. However, in the case of a positive result, passengers will either be quarantined for an additional time period or will be shifted to hospital as per the suggestions of the health authorities.

Category ‘B’ countries

Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, USA, UK, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey are included in Category B.

It was decided that travellers from Category B countries should be vaccinated and all the passengers aged 6 years and above (locals/foreigners) are required to be in possession of a negative PCR test report (max 48 hours old) before boarding.

However, deportees are exempted from PCR test/report requirements.

The NCOC stated that COVID-19 tests of random flights will be conducted at the airport on arrival from Category B countries.

It added that those testing negative will be allowed to proceed while positive cases will be quarantined for 10 days. Repeat PCR tests of all positive quarantined passengers will be undertaken on the 8th day of quarantine. In case of a negative result, the passengers will be allowed to proceed home. However, in case of a positive result, the individual will either undergo an additional quarantine period or will be shifted to the hospital as per the advice of health authorities.

The NCOC said that all the other countries not included in Category C and B will fall in Category A.

According to the new directives, travellers from these destinations have to be 100% vaccinated and all passengers of 6 years of age and above (locals/foreigners) are required to be in possession of a negative PCR test report (max 48 hours old) before boarding. However, deportees are exempted from the PCR test/report requirement.

Screening of Transit flights

The NCOC has imposed a restriction of 100% rapid antigen tests on arrival for transit flights arriving via Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar to guard against the entry of Omicron variant through indirect flights.

Relaxations for stranded Pakistanis

a. All Pakistanis can travel from Category C countries without exemption till 15 December but the above-mentioned health/testing protocols on arrival will remain applicable.

b. Pakistanis already travelled / travelling to Category C countries on short-term visa and deportees are permitted to travel back without exemption process.

c. Pakistanis unable to get themselves vaccinated abroad (all categories) due to the following reasons are exempted from mandatory vaccination after producing valid proof to airline / immigration authorities before boarding: –

  1. Expired Visa / Emirates ID or illegal immigrants/deportees.
  2. Pending court cases.
  3. Medical conditions / issues.
  4. Pregnant women.
  5. Partially vaccinated from Pakistan.

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