Special assistant to the P.M. on National Security urges citizens to only travel if they have no symptoms of coronavirus
The Government of Pakistan will start to “medically screen” outbound travelers at airports to prevent coronavirus patients from boarding planes to foreign countries, Special Assistant to the P.M. on National Security Moeed Yusuf said on Thursday.
“After the government allowed outgoing flights, some countries—as well as the media—have pointed out that there have been several flights with multiple cases of COVID-19 patients on them,” said Yusuf, adding that this was not true of all flights or all passengers, “only some of them.”
He said that in light of this growing concern, the government had decided to start medically screening—testing body temperatures and requiring questionnaires—of all outbound travelers from June 25 (Saturday). “This will be a comprehensive screening,” he said, adding that it was similar to the policies the government was already enforcing for inbound travelers. “We will prevent any passengers—regardless of their itinerary—from traveling if they have high temperatures or other symptoms,” he warned, adding anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus would have to complete a two-week quarantine period before trying to travel once more.
Trying to dispel the impression that this measure was implemented under pressure from other countries, the special assistant said that the government had been developing it for “some time” and had always planned to enforce it.
Yusuf advised citizens planning to leave Pakistan in the coming days to carefully study the policies of the countries they were traveling to and make sure they fulfilled all the required conditions. He said several countries were now requiring all incoming passengers to quarantine themselves for 14 days and travelers should be prepared for this.
“Don’t travel unless you are completely fine,” he said, warning that if a Pakistani citizen tests positive in a foreign country—which has curbed the virus unlike Pakistan—that has made it compulsory for passengers to get tested before traveling, it could become a “diplomatic concern” for the government.
Seeking to defend the government, Yusuf said that Pakistan “had suffered immensely” in the past three months as it has repatriated citizens from countries without adequate testing procedures. “We tested and quarantined people ourselves,” he said, adding that the government would address all concerns from “certain sectors” about outbound travelers.
Pakistan has reopened its airspace for both inbound and outbound travel though there are certain restrictions to adhere to social distancing policies required to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Emirates Airlines this week announced it was “temporarily” suspending flights out of Pakistan due to a surge in cases of COVID-19 patients among travelers from there. Meanwhile, South Korea has announced it would restrict visas to, and flights from, Pakistan and Bangladesh following a surge in novel coronavirus cases from travelers arriving from the two countries. New Zealand has also reported 4 new infections of COVID-19 among citizens who had recently returned from Pakistan.