Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Pakistan extends ban on commercial flights through April 30; movement controls related to COVID-19 continue as business restrictions ease.

This alert affects Pakistan

This alert began 20 Apr 2020 08:55 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Date: Indefinite
  • Impact: Increased security, entry restrictions, flight disruptions, transport and business disruptions; possible clashes, immigration delays

Summary
Pakistan will extend an ongoing ban on domestic and international passenger flight operations through 2359 April 30; the restriction was initially set to end April 21. Cargo flights are unaffected. As of April 20, officials are easing business restrictions introduced as part of a series of nationwide policies meant to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Other than essential and emergency services, operations relating to the agriculture, construction, electronic commerce, energy, export, manufacturing, mining, and software sectors may function with hygiene and social distancing measures. Restrictions on capacity and operational hours will probably continue; strictest guidelines are in force throughout Sindh Province. Various provincial authorities have allowed sales at most retail outlets and services such as home repair, except in areas with reported COVID-19 clusters.

Authorities have also permitted resumption of congregational prayers at mosques across the country with precautions. Nationwide domestic control measures, including a ban on all social and public gatherings, as well as the closure of other public spaces like educational institutions, tourist attractions, dine-in restaurants, public squares, and entertainment venues, will continue at least through April 30. Officials have also advised nonessential public and private entities to utilize social distancing or telecommuting facilities to the extent possible. Officials have suspended all passenger bus and train services indefinitely; inter-district and inter-provincial transport remain limited to cargo, emergency, and official transit.

Local administration and security forces, including the army, are facilitating movement controls that vary across regions; this mainly includes minimization of nonessential outdoor activity. Protests are possible in the coming weeks, mainly by traders and religious groups. While traders may demonstrate outside government offices and markets if provincial authorities fail to implement the recommended relaxations, religious groups have announced they will resume prayers at mosques in defiance of ordered continuation of closures. Police are likely to disperse such unlawful gatherings forcibly, prompting possibly violent clashes.

Travel Restrictions

In addition to the air travel restrictions, Pakistani authorities have sealed off all border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan. Commercial operations - except for transport of essential goods - also remain suspended. Officials have closed the Attari-Wagah border with India, though a handful of Pakistani and Indian citizens have been allowed to repatriate through the crossing on an emergency basis. Bus and train services between India and Pakistan remain suspended. Any incoming travelers permitted in the country, including Pakistani nationals, are advised to self-isolate for two weeks or are mandated to undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a medical facility based on medical screening outcomes.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. 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.

Advice
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.

Resources
World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int