'Two-day quarantine does not mean you can go home afterwards': Yusuf explains policy for returning citizens

Published April 29, 2020
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf addresses the media in Islamabad. —DawnNewsTV
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf addresses the media in Islamabad. —DawnNewsTV

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf on Wednesday clarified that the two-day mandatory quarantine period for citizens returning to the country does not mean that they would necessarily be allowed to go home afterwards.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, he said that every passenger coming to Pakistan would be required to stay at a quarantine facility for two days. He clarified that tests were conducted after 48 hours have passed.

While explaining the quarantine policy, he said that it can take up to one or one-and-a-half days or even 3-4 days until test results come back depending on provincial capacity and pressure. "After the test result comes back, we will decide whether the person will remain under quarantine, be taken to a hospital or sent home with self-isolation guidelines.

"I understand people are agitated but as you know most new cases are asymptomatic now so you have to cooperate with the government," he said. He added that the procedures had been made after advice from health experts and administrative authorities.

"You have waited patiently for a long time outside Pakistan, we request you to cooperate with the authorities when you're back here. These [procedures] are only for the protection of you and your loved ones."

In some cases, he noted, a traveller's test will come back negative, but many other people test positive on their flight; in such a situation it depends on provincial authorities if they want to keep such persons (who test negative) quarantined for an extra period.

Focus on Gulf states

Yusuf said that the government's focus for the next week would remain on repatriating Pakistani nationals from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia as a lot of labourers were stranded there after losing their jobs because of the pandemic. "But we will also try bringing citizens back from Sudan, Kenya and Britain," he added.

He added that the government has granted permission to some airlines to operate commercial flights from Pakistan especially to countries where PIA does not have access, such as the United States, Australia and Africa.

He urged Pakistanis stranded abroad to register with the embassies in their country of residence, saying the embassies were deciding who to prioritise for repatriation.

Fatality rate lower than world's

The SAPM said that the case fatality rate in Pakistan was 2.1 per cent which is far less compared to the worldwide rate. He added that 70 per cent of those who died form coronavirus in Pakistan had underlying health conditions.

"Our testing capacity has increased, we have conducted 8,530 tests in the last 24 hours. That has been our strategy too, to increase the testing capacity and gradually move towards smart lockdown," Yusuf said.

The SAPM added that the government's entire focus now was to ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) were followed everywhere including mosques and markets.

Imports from Iran

Yusuf said that five districts in Balochistan which were located far from the country's main trade routes would be allowed to import essential items from neighbouring Iran. He added that the government had also allowed the export of certain essential items to Afghanistan since April 10 on the request of the Afghan government.

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