Pakistan has extended an entry ban for most passengers from South Africa and the UK through 2359 Jan. 31, due to concerns over a new strain of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The restriction applies to all travelers with a travel history to either country in the past 10 days. However, diplomats and their families, as well as transit passengers who did not exit the airport, and returning Pakistanis with short-term and work visas to South Africa or the UK may still enter the country. Effective Jan. 9, those holding a valid National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) or Pakistan Origin Card (POC) may also enter. Permitted arrivals must produce negative results of a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) COVID-19 test taken at least 72 hours before departure, undertake on-arrival testing and quarantine in a facility until test results are out, and undergo enforced home quarantine for up to seven days. Flights to and from South Africa and the UK remain operational, though services may be rescheduled or limited by air carriers due to entry restrictions.
Authorities are maintaining domestic restrictions due to increased COVID-19 activity. The National Coordination Committee has halted indoor events and dining nationwide, though restaurants and food stalls with outdoor seating can remain open. Officials are maintaining a ban on gatherings of more than 300 people. Entertainment venues must close by 1800, though shopping malls and markets may operate until 2200; only essential shops may function after 2200. Authorities have suspended in-person classes at educational institutions until Jan. 10, though implementation may vary by province. Officials have intensified enforcement of social-distancing measures and the wearing of facemasks in public; violators may be subject to fines and arrests. Public and private offices must limit employees to 50-percent capacity and encourage telecommuting to the extent possible.
Several local governments are implementing tighter restrictions in areas with higher caseloads. Under these "smart lockdown" measures, officials will suspend nonessential activity and movement. Essential stores may also face operational restrictions, while limited public and private transport services can operate. Authorities typically ban all private and public gatherings except for permitted weddings and funerals; they also impose entry and exit controls in such areas. Due to increased COVID-19 activity, multiple areas in most major cities are under strict curbs, though regional variations exist. As of Jan. 5, measures include:
Azad Jammu and Kashmir: The entire region is under a "smart lockdown." All shops and businesses may open 0700-2200 daily but must remain closed on Tuesdays and Fridays. Dine-in services are banned; private clinics and educational institutions remain closed. Public transport will continue.
Balochistan Province: Nationwide restrictions mandating event venues, restaurants, and nonessential stores to close by 2200 and recreational sites to close by 1800 daily are applicable. Schools will remain closed for an extended winter vacation until March 2021.
Gilgit-Baltistan: Nationwide restrictions apply.
Islamabad: All public gatherings are banned. Localized curbs are possible in buildings and streets with reported cases.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province: Several areas of Peshawar are under "smart lockdown." Essential stores, transport services, and food outlets may function in lockdown areas; exit and entry controls are in place. Event venues, restaurants, and nonessential stores must close by 2200, while recreational sites must close by 1800 daily.
Punjab Province: Strict curbs are in place across various areas in Bahawalpur, Bhakkar, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, and Sargodha cities. In such areas, shops selling meat, milk, and baked goods may remain open 0700-1900 daily; grocery stores and fuel stations may function 0900-1900 daily. However, other commercial establishments, including shopping malls, restaurants, and offices, must remain closed. Only one person is permitted to occupy each vehicle.
Sindh Province: Outdoor events may involve up to 200 people. Outdoor dining at restaurants must end at 2200, while takeaway services may occur up to 0100. Nonessential stores and retail centers may operate through 2000 daily but must remain closed one day weekly on Friday or Sunday. Multiple areas of Hyderabad and Karachi's South, Central, and West districts are under "smart lockdown;" curbs comprise the suspension of public transport, closure of all nonessential businesses, including industries, as well as a ban on all public and private gatherings. Food delivery and takeaway services cannot operate in such areas.
Measures typically last for two weeks in identified high-risk areas, but extensions are possible. Officials may implement restrictions in other locations in the coming weeks if caseloads increase.
Public and private transport services have resumed nationwide, though seating restrictions continue at the provincial and local levels in some areas. Limited domestic and international flights are operational. Regional variations in rules are likely to continue; reports indicate generally poor adherence to and enforcement of guidelines across the nation.
Land border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan are open for trade - mainly of essential goods - and limited passenger travel. However, cargo transit continues to face intermittent disruptions, primarily along the Afghan border, due to protests over the permitted number of vehicles and people's passage. The Attari-Wagah border with India remains closed, except for limited cargo transport, permitted passenger travel, repatriation, and transit trade with Afghanistan. Suspension of bus and train services between India and Pakistan will continue until further notice.
Travel RestrictionsAuthorities have permitted the resumption of international passenger flight operations. However, flights remain limited due to low demand and travel restrictions imposed by foreign governments on Pakistani citizens and air carriers. Cargo, charter, and repatriation flights are also operational. All entrants via air routes, except countries in Category A, must submit negative results of an RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken within 96 hours prior to arrival. Exempted countries under Category A are subject to change at short notice; travelers from 24 countries may avail of such exemptions as of Jan. 5. Category classifications are typically revised fortnightly. All Afghan nationals above the age of 12 entering through land borders must produce negative results of an RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken within 96 hours before arrival.
All travelers must submit a health declaration form online or via the "Pass Track" mobile application within 48 hours of arrival in Pakistan. Airline or airport officials will also provide passengers an additional health screening form to submit upon landing. All incoming travelers to the country, including Pakistani nationals, must self-isolate for up to two weeks if they have no COVID-19 symptoms. Symptomatic passengers must undergo testing and a 14-day quarantine at home or a medical facility, based on health assessments.
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Confirm travel arrangements. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all business appointments, deliveries, and travel arrangements. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items. Avoid all large gatherings; heed security and traffic advisories.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.
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