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pakistan
Thursday Jun 04 2020
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COVID-19: Sindh govt raises concerns on Centre's new repatriation policy, says will test every overseas passenger

Photo: File

KARACHI: The Sindh government on Thursday announced it will test all international passengers arriving at the Jinnah International Airport and keep them under quarantine as per standard operating procedures.

The announcement comes after earlier in the day the Sindh health department had raised alarm over the Centre's new policy regarding the repatriation of overseas Pakistanis whereby passengers are sent home without obtaining their COVID-19 test results.

Previously, overseas Pakistanis repatriated to the country were quarantined for 24 hours and let go after testing negative for the virus. Those diagnosed positive were quarantined for 14 days.

The development also comes as the chief minister's law adviser Murtaza Wahab said that 246 passengers had landed in Karachi from Saudi Arabia and 123 of them were diagnosed positive when tested.

"Federal government wanted the flights to open and allow people in without tests. Sindh government took tests of the passengers and will now have to trace the passengers and isolate them," he wrote.

The federal government has lifted the ban on national and international flights and announced that passengers will no longer be tested.

"The Sindh government, keeping in view the COVID-19 emergency and gravity of the situation, has decided to test each and every passenger, landing in Karachi. These passengers would be kept in quarantine," said a statement by the provincial government.

According to the statement, passengers flying in from other countries "would have to undergo the COVID-19 test which is not only in their interest but in the interest of their family members and social circle".

“We are already facing a spike in the cases and the death ratio has increased from one percent to 1.7 percent, therefore there would be no compromise on the tests,” said Information Minister Syed Nasir Shah.

Shah, quoting the chief minister, said that clear instructions for the testing of each and every passenger have been issued to the health department.

Centre's new repatriation policy

Dr Moeed Yousuf on Wednesday announced a new policy for overseas Pakistanis being repatriated back to the country, saying that the number of passengers being brought back to the country have been increased on directives of PM Imran.

He said that 20,000 passengers will be repatriated by June 10. This makes it 10,000 more overseas Pakistanis who have been repatriated to the country, compared to the previous stage of the whole process.

"The testing process has been further expedited and from today onwards, passengers will be tested on their arrival," Yousuf maintained, adding that the repatriated Pakistanis will be sent home to self-isolate without waiting for the test results.

When they are obtained, the test results will be included in the track and trace system.

'Herd immunity'

A source at the federal level has said that unofficially, the federal government has decided to go with the "herd immunity policy".

According to Pakistan Medical Association general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad, herd immunity is the process when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease. This provides indirect protection — or herd immunity (also called herd protection) — to those who are not immune to the disease.

“For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further),” he said.