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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has issued new travel restrictions for various countries in a bid to check the spread of the new coronavirus variant Omicron threat.

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), while expanding the list of countries in category C from seven to 15 has included Croatia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

The NCOC said essential travel from the above-mentioned countries would require an exemption certificate from their government’s committee. The NCOC has also declared coronavirus vaccination mandatory for all inbound passengers.

The health protocols would entail one to be fully vaccinated, with all passengers, six years and above to have a negative PCR test report (maximum 48 hours prior to departure). In addition, passengers who have the required exemption would undergo a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival at Pakistani airports, and negative RAT cases will be allowed to proceed.

However, RAT negative cases from South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia will have to undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine followed by a PCR test. Any individuals with a positive RAT result will undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine and if the PCR test on the eighth day is positive, will be quarantined further or shifted to a health facility as per the advice of doctors.

For countries in Category B, which include Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, the USA, the UK, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey, all inbound passengers need to be fully vaccinated.

Furthermore, passengers from Category B countries need to have a negative PCR test report (maximum 48 hours prior to departure). The NCOC stated that health authorities will also conduct random RAT testing of passengers coming from Category B countries.

“RAT negative cases will be allowed to proceed. RAT positive cases will be quarantined for 10 days. RT PCR test of all RAT positive quarantined passengers will be undertaken on the eighth day of quarantine. In case of a negative result, pax will be allowed to proceed home. However, in case of a positive result, passenger will either undergo additional quarantine period or will be shifted to hospital as per the advice of health authorities.”

For Category A countries, all inbound passengers need to be fully vaccinated with the same PCR requirement as Category B and C countries. Authorities will also screen transit flights, with all passengers going through RAT at airports on flights arriving via KSA, the UAE, and Qatar to “guard against entry of Omicron variant through indirect flights”.

The NCOC stated that to facilitate stranded Pakistanis, travel from Category C countries without exemption is allowed till December 15, with the above-mentioned health protocols in place.

“Pakistanis already travelled/travelling to Category C countries on short-term visa and deportees are permitted to travel back without exemption process,” added the NCOC statement.

Pakistani nationals, who were unable to get themselves vaccinated abroad, are exempted from mandatory vaccination after they produce valid proof to airline or immigration authorities before boarding. The exempted categories are expired visas or illegal immigrants/deportees, pending court cases, medical conditions, pregnant women and those partially vaccinated from Pakistan.

On the other hand, Pakistan has reported 10 deaths in the last 24 hours by novel coronavirus as the number of positive cases has surged to 1,287,161. The nationwide tally of fatalities has jumped to 28,777.

According to the latest figures by the NCOC, 336 persons tested positive for the Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. Punjab remains the worst-hit province in terms of deaths followed by Sindh and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Till now 13,041 individuals have lost their lives to the epidemic in Punjab, 7,626 in Sindh 5,862 in KP, 960 in Islamabad, 742 in Azad Kashmir, 360 in Balochistan, and 186 in GB.

Furthermore, 476,830 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Sindh, 443,519 in Punjab, 180,383 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 107,930 in Islamabad, 34,579 in Azad Kashmir, 33,507 in Balochistan, and 10,413 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Pakistan has so far conducted 22,252,342 coronavirus tests and 42,944 in the last 24 hours. 1,246,464 patients have recovered in the country, whereas, 862 patients are in critical condition. The Covid-19 positivity ratio was recorded at 0.78 percent.

So far, 81,076,341 people have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine including 296,563 in the last 24 hours. At least 51,163,078 citizens have been fully vaccinated, while 427,334 received their second dose in the last 24 hours.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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