ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday began allowing vaccinated Sikh pilgrims from India to travel to the Kartarpur corridor, under strict COVID-19 protocols, after closing the border earlier this year to contain the outbreak.
The Kartarpur corridor is a 4km-long visa-free passageway that provides access to the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, home to a temple that marks the site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, died.
It was temporarily closed in March 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and briefly reopened in October. It was padlocked again after a surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
On Saturday, the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s pandemic response, said the decision was made “in view of the upcoming death anniversary of Baba Guru (Nanak)” on September 22.
The NCOC added that all measures would be taken to ensure “only fully vaccinated persons, carrying vaccination certificate, are allowed to enter Pakistan.”
“Forum underscored that as per the enforced non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), a maximum of 300 persons would be allowed to participate in outdoor activities,” the APP said.
The corridor was inaugurated by Pakistani and Indian prime ministers in November 2019 to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in both countries.
India has yet to respond to the formal resumption of operations for the cross-border temple visits as it continues to fight coronavirus infections.
In another development, Pakistan provided lifesaving medical equipment, including 75 ventilators, to Sri Lanka to help it tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NCOC meeting unanimously decided to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur next month under strict Covid-19 protocols.
It is worth mentioning here that due to the Delta variant, India had been in category C from May 22 till Aug 12, and special approval was required for people coming from the country, including Sikh pilgrims. However, now fully vaccinated persons with certificates will be allowed to enter Pakistan provided they show real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test reports which should not be more than 72 hours old.
Apart from this, Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) will also be conducted at airports and in case of a positive result, the individual will not be allowed to enter Pakistan. Besides, as per non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), a maximum of 300 people will be permitted to assemble at a time at the darbar.
According to an official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), Pakistan had introduced three categories to deal with coronavirus.
“Countries in category A are exempted from the mandatory Covid-19 test, travellers from areas falling in category B are required to present a negative PCR test that must be taken within 72 hours of the travel date while visitors from nations in category C are restricted and can travel only under specific NCOC guidelines,” the official said.