Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Pakistan extends domestic restrictions through May 9 due to COVID-19. Commercial flights banned through at least April 30.

This alert affects Pakistan

This alert began 24 Apr 2020 17:50 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Date: Indefinite
  • Impact: Increased security; significant transport and business disruptions

Summary
Pakistan is extending its existing transport and gathering restrictions until at least May 9 to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Control measures implemented nationwide include a ban on social and public gatherings, as well as the closure of public spaces, such as educational institutions, tourist attractions, dine-in restaurants, public squares, and entertainment venues. Emergency and essential services, including healthcare and food suppliers, continue to operate. Additionally, operations related to the agriculture, construction, electronic commerce, energy, export, manufacturing, mining, and software sectors are allowed to function, provided they implement hygiene and social distancing measures.

An ongoing ban on domestic and international commercial passenger flights is set to continue until 2359 April 30, but will likely be extended further. Cargo flights are unaffected. Officials have suspended all passenger bus and train services indefinitely; inter-district and inter-provincial transport remain limited to cargo, emergency, and official transit.

Business and gathering controls vary somewhat by province, with the strictest guidelines being in force in Sindh Province. Restrictions on establishment capacity and hours of operation will probably continue. Various provincial authorities have allowed sales at most retail outlets and services such as home repair, except in areas with reported COVID-19 clusters.

Movement restrictions vary by region, with local administration and security forces, including the army, acting in an enforcement capacity. Protests - particularly by merchants and religious groups - are possible in the coming weeks. Merchants may demonstrate outside government offices and markets if provincial authorities fail to implement recommended relaxations; religious groups have announced they will resume prayers at mosques in defiance the ordered closure of houses of worship. Police could use force to disperse such gatherings, potentially prompting 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 are similar to 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