Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: Pakistan implementing COVID-19 measures with regional variations as of July 30. Limited domestic and international flights operational.
- Alert Begins: 30 Jul 2020 05:30 AM UTC
- Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
- Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Increased security, transport and business disruptions; possible protests
Pakistan continues to implement nationwide business, transport, and movement restrictions with regional variations across provinces to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Strict measures will be in effect across Punjab Province through Aug. 5, and Sindh Province through Aug. 15. Nationwide social distancing measures will continue in other areas, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan, until further notice. Strictest restrictions are ongoing in urban centers with increasing cases such as Karachi and Lahore; enforcement is likely to be high during the Eid Al-Adha festivities July 31-Aug. 2. Notable measures include:
- Azad Jammu and Kashmir: Business restrictions are ongoing. Eateries may operate daily, while shops selling essential items like food may open 0800-1800 Tuesdays-Sundays. All other retail outlets can only open three days a week. Meat shops will operate Thursdays-Saturdays; businesses selling personal items such as clothes will function Sundays-Tuesdays; entities related to electronics, hardware, and construction may open Wednesdays-Fridays; and grooming services will be available Fridays-Sundays. Private hire vehicles such as taxis and autorickshaws will operate on a rotational basis based on red or blue stickers.
- Balochistan: Businesses to remain open 0900-2200 except on Fridays; exempted entities that can function 24 hours are eateries, grocery stores, pharmacies, and services such as tailoring.
- Gilgit Baltistan: Local elections scheduled Aug. 18 have been postponed indefinitely in light of COVID-19 measures; ongoing business and travel restrictions affecting tourism and hospitality sectors are likely to continue prompting further protests by affected groups.
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Nonessential movement remains suspended in over 200 areas in the province, including parts of Peshawar city, until further notice. Only essential businesses and emergency transport services are available in such locations; residents must stay home. Businesses and limited transport services may operate with social distancing measures in other areas.
- Punjab: Authorities are suspending all nonessential movement and services through Aug. 5. While intra- and inter-provincial transport will remain operational, residents are only allowed to leave home for essential or emergency purposes. Only shops selling essential items such as food, fuel, and medicine will remain open, while takeaway and delivery services of eateries may function 24 hours. Limited industrial and agricultural activity is allowed. Both private and public gatherings are banned through Aug. 5, regardless of size or purpose.
- Sindh: All nonessential movement and activity are banned in demarcated areas with COVID-19 clusters - mainly in Karachi and other urban centers - through at least Aug. 15. Similar restrictions will be in place across Sindh Province on weekends. On weekdays, businesses outside identified hotspot zones may open 0600-1900; bakeries may function through 2200, while delivery services can operate until 2300. Fuel stations are open 24 hours every day.
Local governments are implementing commercial restrictions in identified high-risk areas and require residents to stay home except when purchasing essential goods. Provincial variations in measures such as operating hours for businesses are likely to continue. Officials are also monitoring the affected areas to ensure that residents adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) that mandate hygiene and social distancing measures. Authorities may introduce restrictions in other areas in the coming days if the number of COVID-19 cases increases. The restrictions typically last from 7-14 days but may be extended depending on the local situation.
Transport and commercial activity have resumed in areas with fewer COVID-19 cases, albeit with social distancing measures. All home-based, small, and large industries have restarted operations, including retail centers such as shopping malls; however, opening hours and capacity are limited. Social gatherings remain banned, except for congregational prayers and permitted functions such as weddings and funerals. Public spaces such as educational institutions, tourist attractions, and dine-in restaurants remain closed. Officials continue to encourage citizens to stay home and require them to wear protective masks in public. Minor regional variations in rules are likely; reports indicate poor adherence to and enforcement of guidelines across the nation.
Inter-provincial and inter-district transport facilities are open, except in Sindh, where inter-provincial transport remains banned until further notice. Although the federal government is allowing public ground transport to resume nationwide, transport services are required to follow standard operating procedures, including operating at 50 percent capacity and passengers paying modified fares. Transporters' disagreement with some of the SOPs and rule changes by provincial authorities at short notice may continue to fuel sporadic protests and transport disruptions.
Authorities have resumed some domestic flights between airports serving Gilgit, (GIL), Karachi (KHI), Lahore (LHE), Islamabad (ISB), Peshawar (PEW), Quetta (UET), and Skardu (KDU). Passengers will be required to fill in a health declaration form detailing travel history and current health status. Authorities will conduct health screenings of people when boarding and will only allow passengers to fill 50 percent of plane seats. Officials may resume flights at airports in other cities in the coming days as the government continues to relax restrictions.
Protests, particularly by healthcare workers, religious groups, traders, and transport workers, are possible in the coming weeks. Healthcare workers have occasionally demonstrated regarding various demands, such as adequate protective equipment and the extension and stringent enforcement of social distancing measures in the community. Some religious groups may defy social distancing orders in the lead-up to and during the July 31-Aug. 2 Eid al-Adha holiday. Protests are also likely outside government offices, transport hubs, and major traffic intersections, mainly in Sindh province, where strictest restrictions are in place. Protesting groups include traders opposed to remaining business restrictions and transport workers demanding relaxation of prescribed capacity limit, reduction in toll tax, and the rollback of fare discounts. Police could use force to disperse such gatherings, potentially prompting clashes.
Authorities have permitted the resumption of international passenger flight operations at all international airports in the country except those serving Gwadar (GWD) and Turbat (TUK) from June 20. However, flights are severely restricted in number and routes due to low demand and travel restrictions affecting Pakistani citizens and air carriers. Cargo, charter, and repatriation flights are also operational. Officials are extending the validity of visas for foreign nationals in the country through Aug. 31. Any incoming travelers to the country, including Pakistani nationals, must self-isolate for two weeks if asymptomatic. Symptomatic passengers are mandated to undergo testing and a 14-day quarantine at home, paid accommodation, or in a medical facility, based on health assessments.
Land border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan are open for trade - mainly of essential goods - and exchange of stranded citizens. However, cargo transit continues facing intermittent disruptions, mainly due to protests over the permitted number of vehicles. The Attari-Wagah border with India remains closed, except for repatriation and transit trade with Afghanistan. Suspension of bus and train services between India and Pakistan will continue until further notice.
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.
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.