The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday reviewed the global Covid-19 situation amid the spread of the new variant Omicron and decided to place travel ban on nine more countries, mostly from Europe.
According to a statement from the NCOC, it revised and expanded Category C — a list of countries from which travel is banned, except under certain conditions.
Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe are the countries that have been added to the list. It is pertinent to mention here that travel to South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong was banned late last month.
Inbound travel from these countries has been banned, the NCOC statement said. It detailed the health protocols that need to be observed in case of essential travel, which require passengers to be fully vaccinated while all passengers, local or foreigners above the age of six years, must possess a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test report issued not more than 48 hours prior to boarding, and get the rapid antigen testing (RAT) conducted on arrival in Pakistan.
Passengers who test negative will be allowed to proceed, however, passengers from South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia will have to undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine followed by a PCR test.
Passengers who test positive on arrival will be quarantined for 10 days and a PCR test will be conducted on the eighth day, the NCOC stated, adding that they will be allowed to exit quarantine if they test negative. In case of a positive result, they will spend more time under quarantine or be moved to hospital based on the advice of health authorities, according to the NCOC statement.
Category B countries
According to the NCOC, a list of 13 countries comprising United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey have been included in category B.
All passengers from these countries need to be fully vaccinated, while everyone above the age of six must possess a negative PCR test report issued not more than 48 hours before boarding.
RATs of passengers will be conducted on random flights, according to the NCOC. Those who test negative will be allowed to proceed while those who test positive will undergo quarantine for 10 days, with a PCR test being conducted on the eighth day. If they test negative, they will be allowed to leave, otherwise they will have to undergo additional quarantine or be moved to hospital, depending on advice from health authorities.
All countries that are not included in category B and C have been included in category A, passengers from which will also be required to be fully vaccinated and possess a negative PCR test report issued not more than 48 hours prior to boarding, the NCOC said.
Deportees from countries in all categories are exempted from the PCR test report requirement.
RATs of all passengers on transit flights from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar will be conducted, according to the revised guidelines.
Facilitation of stranded Pakistanis
The NCOC approved a number of guidelines to "facilitate the return" of Pakistanis stranded abroad. According to the statement, all Pakistanis can travel from category C countries till December 15. However, the health protocols will be applicable to them.
Pakistanis who were unable to get themselves vaccinated abroad because of certain conditions, including expired visa or illegal immigration, pending court cases, medical conditions, pregnancy or partial vaccination from Pakistan, have been exempted from the requirement to be fully vaccinated, provided they provide proof to airline and immigration authorities prior to boarding, the government body said.
Pakistan had started placing travel bans last month following the detection of the Omicron variant in South Africa.
Omicron has been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "highly transmissible" variant — the same category that includes the predominant Delta variant.