Pakistani authorities recommend banning air travel for unvaccinated

ISLAMABAD, July 9 (Reuters) - Pakistan's top body overseeing the pandemic response recommended on Friday that anyone who did not hold a COVID-19 vaccination certificate should not be allowed to travel by air after Aug. 1.

The guidance by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) would need the federal government's approval, and came as the country's leadership warned a fourth wave of the pandemic was beginning and dangerous variants of the virus, including the Delta variant, had been detected.

New guidelines to curb the virus spread ahead of the Eid-ul-Adha holiday later this month would be announced soon, the NCOC said. Students over 18 would be required to get the vaccine by Aug. 31 as well, and booking hotels and travel for tourists inside the country would also now require proof of vaccination.

"Two weeks back I had tweeted that our artificial intelligence models are showing possible emergence of 4th wave," Asad Umar, the minister in-charge of supervising anti-COVID-19 operations, said on Twitter on Friday. "Now there are clear early signs of 4th wave starting."

The NCOC has said the Delta, Beta, and Alpha variants of the virus have been detected in Pakistan since May.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said new measures would be taken in response to the appearance in the country of the Delta variant first identified in neighbouring India.

"After a decline, cases are rising again and we are concerned that [the] Indian variant cases are being reported in Pakistan as well," Khan said in a televised address to the nation. Khan ruled out a strict nationwide lockdown, but asked the public to follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and get vaccinated.

Pakistan reported 1,737 new cases on Thursday, with 25 new deaths. A total of 969,476 cases and 22,520 deaths have been recorded in the country so far, according to the NCOC.

14.7 million people in the country have been partially vaccinated and 3.5 million fully vaccinated, according to the NCOC.

Reporting by Umar Farooq; Editing by Alex Richardson

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