Pakistan bans Britons’ entry over new COVID strain

NCOC takes cue from EU closing borders with UK; PIA cancels flights for Saudi Arabia


Taking cue from the European Union (EU) and several other countries, Pakistan on Monday banned the entry of passengers from the United Kingdom into Pakistan from Tuesday (today) night in view of the fears over a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain.

A slew of countries closed their borders to Britain on Monday, suspending travel for Britons, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that a mutated variant of the virus, up to 70% more transmissible, had been identified in the country.

The decision to ban travel from the UK was taken by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on a day when the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) cancelled all flights to and from Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi authorities suspended all international flights for a week.

“Temporary restriction is being put in place on inbound travellers from UK (whether direct or indirect) into Pakistan to be effective from midnight Dec 22 until Dec 29,” the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said in its notification.

However, it added that in-transit passengers who had not landed at any British airport would be able to come to Pakistan. It also said that the passengers with Pakistani passports would be allowed after producing a negative Covid-19 test report, conducted 72 hours before the journey.

“Passengers will be officially quarantined until their PCR tests result return negative. Passengers will be quarantined at their homes for 7 days even after the negative test,” the notification said, adding that passengers coming from Britain during the last 7 days, had undergone tests.

Meanwhile, the PIA said on Monday all flights to and from Saudi Arabia had been cancelled, after the Saudi aviation authority suspended all international flights for travellers for a week amid the second wave of coronavirus all over the world.

The cancelled PIA flights are PK-9739 and PK-9760 from Multan to Jeddah and from Jeddah to Lahore on Monday. Similarly, the PIA flights taking off from Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Multan for Saudi cities of Jeddah, Dammam and Madina have also been cancelled.

According to a PIA spokesperson, the flights would remain suspended until restored by the Saudi authorities. The spokesperson added that all the affected passengers would be accommodated as soon as the flights resumed.

The suspension of the PIA flights came after Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) banned all international flights in a post issued to all foreign airlines, including PIA, expressing fear that the second wave of coronavirus would be uncontrollable all over the world, including Pakistan.

The post said that the kingdom had banned entry of all international flights for a week due to the threat of the spread of the coronavirus, adding that the ban could be extended for another week. However, it added that foreign flights inside the Kingdom were allowed to leave.

Pakistan is in the grip of a second and deadlier second wave of coronavirus. On Monday, Balochistan Senator Begum Kalsoom Parveen passed away in Islamabad after contracting Covid-19 last month, as the pandemic continued to hold its prevalence in the country with 1,792 new cases.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar quarantined himself after feeling unwell and got tested for the coronavirus, while as a sign of mounting pressure on the hospitals, a woman died after the ventilator support ‘broke down’ at the Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator was admitted to a private hospital in Islamabad on November 28, where she was later put on a ventilator. She died at the same hospital on Monday morning. Parveen had been a member of the Senate since 2015.

President Dr Arif Alvi, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Javed Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Senator Rehman Malik offered his heartfelt condolences to Senator Parveen’s family.

In Lahore, according to Express News, Chief Minister Buzdar suspended all his public and private engagements and quarantined himself after feeling unwell and got tested for the coronavirus. The report said that Buzdar’s Covid-19 test results would come back after 24 hours.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a female Covid-19 patient passed away at the Ayub Medical Complex after the ventilator, supporting her, “broke down”. The patient, aged 57, had been under treatment for the past three days.

The incident followed a similar incident at the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) in Peshawar where six Covid-19 patients died after the medical facility ran out of oxygen supplies. An investigation found mismanagement on the part of hospital staff that resulted in a delayed supply of oxygen.