Pakistan bans travel from 6 countries over fears of new COVID variant Omicron

Pakistan bans travel from 6 countries over fears of new COVID variant Omicron

Islamabad (Web Desk): Pakistan on Saturday announced a ban on entry from from six southern African nations and Hong Kong following the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron.

In a post on Twitter, Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), said: “Based on the emergence of the new covid variant, notification has been issued restrict travel from 6 south african countries and Hong Kong. The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older”.

The countries from where the travel has been restricted include South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, "due to threat" from the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.

According to a statement issued by the NCOC, a ban on direct or indirect inbound travel from the aforementioned countries has been imposed, with the countries placed in Category C "with immediate effect".

The NCOC said that Pakistani passengers travelling from these countries on "extreme emergency" will only be allowed after obtaining exemptions and ensuring the following protocols:

 Vaccination certificate, maximum 72-hour-old negative PCR report before boarding

 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival at the airport, RAT negative cases will undergo 3 days mandatory home quarantine and re-RAT will be conducted on third day, RAT positive cases will undergo 10 days mandatory quarantine at government or self-paid facilities and their PCR test will be conducted on the 10th day in quarantine.

It is pertinent to mention that the South African scientists on November 25 said that they had detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference.

Moreover, the WHO on Friday classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern,” saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

Preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection and there had been a “detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology,” it said in a statement after a closed meeting of independent experts who reviewed the data.

Infections in South Africa had risen steeply in recent weeks, coinciding with detection of the variant now designated as omicron, WHO said.