The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has banned entry into Pakistan from eight more countries in wake of the threat of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.
The new Category C list includes Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The health and testing protocols for inbound air travel from Category C countries include a complete ban on inbound travel from Category C countries.
The NCOC said ‘essential’ travel from the Category C countries would require an exemption certificate from the government’s exemption committee with health protocols in place.
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, 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.