For three months : WHO extends travel curbs for Pakistanis


After two cases of polio were exported in four months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has extended travel restrictions on Pakistan for three months while asking diplomatic missions of other nations in the country to ask for vaccination certificates while granting visa applications.

The decision was taken after an International Health Regulations emergency committee meeting on May 12 reviewed the steps taken by Pakistan to clamp down on the spread of poliovirus, reads a statement on the WHO website.

The meeting was told that there has been a general decline in international spread of wild poliovirus world over, with no spread in 2015 or thus far in 2016, except between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan has apparently exported two cases of polio into Afghanistan, in October 2015 and again in February 2016, a new analysis of genetic data shows. It added that the new virus reported in Kunar province was closely related to Pakistan viruses circulating at least since June 2014 in the Khyber-Peshawar. The new Afghan virus in Nangarhar was closely related to the viruses circulating during 2015 in the K-P.

The cases were reported from Nangarhar and Kunar provinces which border Pakistan. “While there has been no new exportation from Afghanistan to Pakistan, ongoing transmission particularly in inaccessible parts of the Eastern Region of Afghanistan close to the international border presents an ongoing risk,” the WHO said.

The agency noted the ongoing scientific cooperation between the Polio Regional Reference Laboratory in Islamabad and the Global Polio Specialised Laboratory in Atlanta to monitor the genetic characteristics and poliovirus sub-types in Pakistan and Afghanistan and expressed its appreciation.

The committee, however, applauded the strong progress made by Pakistan to reduce transmission of the poliovirus in 2016, and welcomed Islamabad’s determination to complete eradication this year.

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