In an effort to avert cases of new coronavirus variant in Pakistan, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Sunday notified a fresh travel advisory for Category C countries after the emergence of a new strain called Omicron.
The CAA has enlisted 17 countries in the fresh travel advisory South Africa, Hong Kong, Iraq, Namibia and Ukraine among them.
The passengers travelling from the countries categorised into C would require permission from the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC). “They would have to compulsorily provide evidence of full Covid-19 vaccination,” the CAA notified.
Meanwhile, Pakistani citizens falling under the category can return home until December 05 without formal permission.
A negative PCR test report, conducted 72 hours before travel, will be compulsory. Moreover, testing and quarantine rules will be applicable to the passengers on arrival to Pakistan, according to the travel advisory.
The discovery of a new coronavirus variant has triggered global alarm with a number of countries suspending travel from South Africa.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement said it was designating the variant, named omicron, as being “of concern”, a label only given to four variants to date.
Earlier, the NCOC chief Asad Umar had announced a travel ban on seven countries after the emergence of a new strain of the virus.
The planning minister, who heads the NCOC, confirmed the restrictions on travel from six South African countries and Hong Kong, and stressed that the emergence of the new variant further underscores the urgency to vaccinate all eligible citizens.
“Based on the emergence of the new Covid variant, notification has been issued to restrict travel from 6 South African countries and Hong Kong,” Umar said in a tweet. “The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older,” he added.
South African scientists announced the discovery of the Omicron variant on November 25. With multiple mutations, the variant is thought to be highly contagious. Many countries are racing to try and contain it, banning flights from southern Africa.
“Consequent to the emergence of Omicron Covid variant in South Africa and its spread to adjoining regions, a complete ban has been imposed on direct/indirect inbound travel from South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana,” the NCOC said in a statement.
The protocols include “vaccination certificate, negative PCR [polymerase chain reaction] report (maximum 72 hours old) before boarding, RAT [rapid antigen test] on arrival at the airport”, the statement added.
Earlier, the United States announced to restrict travel from South Africa – where the new mutation was discovered – and neighbouring countries, effective from Monday.
Canada also said it was closing its borders to the same countries, following bans on flights announced by Britain, the European Union and others.
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