NCOC adds nine countries to Category C list, banning inbound travel from them except in cases where it is considered ‘essential’
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Monday revised travel restrictions, banning the entry of nine more countries into Pakistan in a bid to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
According to a statement issued after a meeting of the forum, Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe have been added to the countries from which all travel is banned without securing special permission. The list, designated Category C, already includes South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and Hong Kong, which were all banned last month as reports emerged of the spread of the Omicron variant.
The NCOC stressed that no inbound travel would be permitted from Category C countries barring “essential” requirements. In that scenario, it said, all inbound passengers would be required to be fully vaccinated; travelers six-and above would need negative PCR test results secured no earlier than 48 hours prior to commencement of travel; submit to rapid antigen tests upon arrival to Pakistan; submit to mandatory quarantine of 10 days if rapid antigen test results come out positive, though this could be reduced to 8 days if a negative PCR test result is secured on that day.
Passengers from South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia would have to undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine followed by a PCR test regardless of their rapid antigen test results, it added.
The NCOC has also revised its list of Category B countries. The list now comprises the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Russia, Thailand, France, Austria, Afghanistan and Turkey with all inbound passengers from these state required to be fully vaccinated. All passengers age six and above must also possess a negative PCR test report obtained no earlier than 48 hours before boarding.
For Category B states, Pakistan will conduct rapid antigen testing on random flights, with all who test negative allowed to proceed. Anyone who tests positive would have to undergo quarantine for 10 days, with a PCR test on the eighth day. In case of a negative results, they would be allowed to end their quarantine, otherwise they would have to undergo additional quarantine or be moved to hospital, depending on advice from health authorities.
All countries not included in either Category B or C has been included in Category A. Passengers from such states would have to be fully vaccinated and possess a negative PCR test report secured no earlier than 48 hours prior to boarding.
Deportees from countries in all categories are exempt from the PCR test report requirement, the statement added. It said that passengers on transit flights from Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar would all be required to submit to rapid antigen testing.
The NCOC also clarified that all Pakistanis could return from Category C countries until Dec. 15 but would need to submit to the health guidelines already announced.
Pakistan has yet to report any case of the Omicron variant, which has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization over its potential for high transmissibility. However, authorities have started preparing for it, with Planning Minister Asad Umar stressing that it would be “all but impossible” to prevent its entry into the country.