Saturday, February 4, 2023

Pakistan bans travel from 7 countries over new COVID variant

Pakistan bans entry from 6 African countries, Hong Kong over Omicron fears

Pakistan has completely suspended air travel from seven countries in response to the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron. The new strain of coronavirus was first detected in South Africa.

Flights have been restricted from six southern African countries, namely South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia, as well as Hong Kong, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

Minister Asad Umar who is the NCOC chief announced the travel curbs on Twitter. He also urged Pakistanis to get vaccinated soon. “The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older” he said.

COVID-19 protocols to be followed

Pakistani passengers traveling from these countries under extreme emergency circumstances will only be allowed after obtaining exemptions and ensuring the following protocols:

  • Vaccination certificate
  • Negative PCR report 72 hours before boarding
  • Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival at the airport
  • RAT negative cases will undergo 3 days mandatory home quarantine and re-RAT will be conducted on third day
  • RAT positive cases will undergo 10 days mandatory quarantine at government or self-paid facilities. PCR test will be conducted on the 10th day in quarantine.

However, to facilitate stranded Pakistanis, travel from these countries will be allowed till December 5, 2021, with the protocols in place.

Omicron variant

The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization on November 24 in South Africa. “This variant has a large number of mutations,” the WHO said in a statement Friday, calling the new strain a “variant of concern.”

Many countries including the US and UK have introduced air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant. Scientists are still studying the impact of the new variant. However, vaccine developers have expressed confidence that they will be able to rapidly adapt their jabs if the Omicron variant spreads.

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