Pakistan has reduced the quarantine period before testing for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to the earliest possible in an effort to bring back more citizens stranded abroad amidst the coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.
Following Prime Minister Imran Khan's directive to bring stranded citizens back home, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), in coordination with the provinces and health professionals, reduced the quarantine period before testing for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to earliest possible, Dawn reported.
According to the paper, passengers will be transported to quarantine centres and will stay there until the return of tests results, after which they may be quarantined or instructed to self-isolate at home as per the provincial health authorities' directions.
This strategy will allow to raise the weekly cap for inbound passengers from 7,000-8,000 to 11,000-12,000 under the current policy, it said.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Moeed Yusuf announced the new policy during on Monday and said the authorities were working day and night to resolve problems of stranded Pakistanis.
Inbound passengers will be allowed a preference between two modes of quarantine, free of cost government quarantine centers or paid government regulated hotels/facilities, he said.
Testing will be conducted as soon as possible after arrival at a quarantine facility. The passengers with negative results to be sent home with guidelines on home isolation for completion of 14-day period, it said, adding that symptomatic patients will be treated as per prescribed health protocols.
Positive cases will not be returned to home province until completion of quarantine period.
The total number of passengers planned from May 11 to 21 is approximately 11,000, with stranded passengers being repatriated from at least 22 countries. Countries from which majority flights are incoming are the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US and Oman.
"We have 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," Yusuf said.
On Monday, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) special flight carrying 179 passengers arrived at Islamabad International Airport from Washington after US granted permission to operate chartered flights for repatriation of stranded Pakistanis from America.
All passengers and crew members were subjected to thermal scanning test by the health authorities. However, no suspected case of coronavirus was detected.
The United States Department of Transportation has granted permission to PIA to operate 12 round-trip or one-way chartered flights to evacuate citizens stranded in both countries.