Govt Speeds Up Coronavirus Testing Policy at Airports

Following the PM’s directive on bringing stranded overseas Pakistanis back home as early as possible, NCOC, in coordination with the provinces and health professionals, have reduced the quarantine period before testing for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to earliest possible.

Passengers will be transported to quarantine centers and will stay there until the return of test results, after which they may be quarantined or instructed to self-isolate at home according to the provincial health authorities’ directions.

This strategy will allow increasing the weekly cap for inbound passengers from 7,000-8,000 to 11,000-12,000 under the current policy.

SAPM Dr. Moeed Yusuf said, “We are working day night to resolve the problems of stranded Pakistanis as per the direction of the Prime Minister,” while announcing the new policy in a press briefing.

Inbound passengers will be allowed a preference between two modes of quarantine, free of cost government quarantine centers or paid government-regulated hotels/facilities. Testing will be conducted as soon as possible after arrival at quarantine facility.

Passengers with negative COVID-19 results will be sent home with guidelines on home isolation for 14 days

Passengers with positive COVID-19 results will be resolved as follows:

  • Symptomatic patients will be treated as per prescribed health protocols.
  • Asymptomatic patients from other provinces will be treated as per prescribed health protocols and to be kept in isolation/quarantine facilities until completion of 14 days.
  • Positive cases will not be returned to the home province until completion of the quarantine period.
  • Asymptomatic patients from the host province will have home quarantine capability reviewed.
  • If the provincial authorities deem home quarantine to be feasible, the patient may be sent home with guidelines on home isolation for 14 days. Otherwise, patients will be treated as per prescribed health protocols and will be kept in isolation/quarantine facilities until the completion of 14 days.

It is also important to note that with the increased number of inbound passengers and keeping in mind the local situation, while the government will continue to use its best capabilities to test patients within 24 hours, and then release them after the return of test results, some delays will inevitably have to be catered for as quarantine and testing capacities come under stress.

Total number of passengers planned from 11th – 21st May is approximately 11,000, with stranded passengers being repatriated from at least 22 countries. Countries from which the majority of flights are incoming are as following: UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, USA, Oman.

These policies have been implemented in coordination with provincial authorities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation Authority, and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis – looking at the complete data for inbound passengers, and it will allow stranded Pakistanis to come back home without worsening the health situation in the country.

Pakistan has been able to repatriate about 23,000 Pakistanis so far, with a total of about 100,000 Pakistanis still registered as stranded across the globe.