COVID-19 fears: Pakistan reduces inbound international flights to 20%

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) today (Saturday) announced that inbound international flights to Pakistan will be reduced to 20 percent from May 5 to May 20 in order to curb a further rise in COVID-19 infections.

“Amid high disease prevalence in various parts of the world with corresponding extreme stress on the critical care system, Pakistan has decided to significantly reduce inbound International Air Travel from 5 May to 20th May,” the NCOC said.

According to the notification, there would be no change in existing Category C list countries. “However, Pakistani passport holders (stranded/short term visa) are allowed to travel to Pakistan subject to exemption by the committee as per procedures in vogue,” it added.

It was not immediately clear which routes and air carriers will be affected. The NCOC said the decision will be reviewed on May 18. The NCOC also listed testing and quarantine protocols for inbound flights to Pakistan that require a mandatory negative RT PCR test, conducted a maximum of 72 hours before travelling to Pakistan.

Negative cases will undergo 10 days of self-quarantine at home with stringent TTO protocols. However, positive cases will be shifted by the provincial/ district administration to a self-paid facility for 10 days quarantine and a repeat PCR test will be conducted.

The NCOC stated that registration on the Passtrack App by all inbound travellers before travelling to Pakistan is mandatory, however, deportees are exempted from registration on the app.

Pakistan has witnessed record deaths in recent days from the novel coronavirus, and stricter restrictions on movement and gathering in public are planned for the upcoming Eid holiday.

Officials are worried the country’s health care system, already under strain, could reach breaking point if more contagious variants of the virus begin to spread, as has happened in neighbouring India.