Pakistan ramps up COVID-19 safety measures at airports amid fresh threat

Special Pakistan ramps up COVID-19 safety measures at airports amid fresh threat
A man wears a protective face mask as he walks among other people along a street, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Karachi, Pakistan June 16, 2020. (REUTERS/FILE)
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Updated 02 January 2023

Pakistan ramps up COVID-19 safety measures at airports amid fresh threat

Pakistan ramps up COVID-19 safety measures at airports amid fresh threat
  • The country has fully vaccinated over 90% of the eligible population, bringing infection rate down to less than 1%
  • The federal health ministry spokesperson says all approved vaccinations, including Pfizer, are available in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s health ministry and relevant departments are "fully prepared" to tackle and control any variant of COVID-19 as authorities have not taken their guards down and increased screening at airports to prevent the spread of a new strain in the country, the Pakistani health ministry said on Monday. 

The overall COVID-19 positivity ratio in Pakistan has remained less than one percent since last July as the country has fully vaccinated more than 132 million people, who constitute over 90 percent of its eligible population. The country reported no deaths and only 12 virus cases in the last 24 hours, with a positivity ratio of 0.39 percent. 

However, Pakistan has started screening international travellers after the emergence of a sub-variant of Omicron, known as BF.7, in China, which has also been detected in Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark and the United States. The country has directed airport health services to isolate potential COVID-19 cases as part of effective control and prevention measures. 

“We have not taken down our guards regarding COVID-19 as all measures are in place to deal with any emergency or rise in the positivity ratio,” Sajid Hussain Shah, a spokesperson for the Pakistani health ministry, told Arab News. 

The authorities at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) are regularly monitoring the situation and keeping liaison with provinces and other departments, he added. 

“Our health experts are monitoring the situation, and teams at the airports and other entry points have increased screening potential in-bound passengers,” Shah said. 

"They are also testing and isolating passengers with COVID-like symptoms." 

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), along with a team of NIH and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials, also reviewed on Monday the situation and surveillance at airports in view of the potential threat posed by the new coronavirus variant. 

“During the briefing, NIH informed that Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests of passengers coming from foreign countries are conducted at all airports in the country,” the NDMA said in a statement. 

"The vaccination and screening tests of border crossers at the Torkham border are also being conducted on a daily basis." 

NDMA chief Lieutenant General Inam Haider Malik directed the NIH to issue precautionary measures for educational institutions, social gatherings and communities, and to hold weekly briefings for related institutions and the public.  

Shah said the virus positivity ratio was less than 0.5 percent in Pakistan and there was no need to "press the panic button" so far. “Around 50 percent of the eligible population have also received booster shots,” he said. 

The health ministry spokesperson said vaccination centers established during the peak of the pandemic were still working in all cities and people could get required vaccination and booster shots from there. 

“All approved vaccinations, including Pfizer, are available in Pakistan,” he said, adding the NCOC and the NIH would issue advisories to the public when required.