NCOC bans travel from Europe’s Omicron hotbeds
Forum adds eight European countries in travel ban list
The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) announced on Monday further travel restrictions in the wake of Omicron variant of coronavirus, adding 8 more countries, mostly European, in Category C that banned the in-bound passengers.
During a meeting, the NCOC, which serves as the nerve centre of the government’s unified effort against the global pandemic, also made vaccination mandatory for all the passengers coming to the country and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for in-bound travellers above the age of 6 years.
With the latest expansion, the number of countries on the Category C increased from 7 to 15. The list comprises The Netherlands, Hungary, Ireland, Croatia, Ukraine, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The NCOC said in a statement that there would be a complete ban on the passengers coming to Pakistan from Category C countries. It added that only ‘essential’ travel from those countries would be possible, subject to an exemption certificate from a special committee.
The NCOC said that vaccination would be mandatory for all travellers coming to Pakistan. The PCR test would be mandatory for the Pakistanis and foreigners above the age of 6 years, it said, adding that the PCR test must be taken 48 hours before boarding.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first announced by southern Africa last month and dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Scientists are still gathering data to establish how contagious and severe it is.
Last month, the NCOC placed six African countries South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia and Hong Kong, into Category C in order to restrict passengers entering the country from these Omicron hot zones.
The NCOC had said that health protocols in place for the travellers also entailed a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival at Pakistani airports and that the negative RAT cases would be allowed to proceed, while individuals with a positive RAT result would undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
For travelling purposes, the authorities have divided countries in A, B, and C categories.
For 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 needed to be fully vaccinated.
Furthermore, passengers from Cat B countries need to have a negative PCR test report (maximum 48 hours prior to departure). The NCO stated that health authorities will also conduct random RAT testing of passengers coming from Cat B countries.
For Category A countries, all inbound passengers need to be fully vaccinated with the same PCR requirement as categories B and C countries. Authorities will also screen transit flights through RAT at airports on flights arriving via KSA, UAE and Qatar to “guard against the entry of Omicron variant”.
The NCOC stated that to facilitate stranded Pakistanis, travel from Category C countries without exemption was allowed till December 15. Besides, there is an exempted category of those having expired visas, illegal immigrants, deportees, pending court cases, medical conditions, pregnant women and those partially vaccinated in Pakistan.