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Pakistan tightens protocols for coronavirus screening at airports

Pakistan tightens protocols for coronavirus screening at airports

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani aviation authorities introduced modified Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for airports at international arrivals for better control of the spread of coronavirus.

The SOPs shall be applicable on all passengers and flight crew with immediate effect, says a press release issued by Aviation Division.

As per SOPs, upon arrival by international flights, everyone will be screened as per practice. The swab sample shall not, however, be collected at the airport.

All passengers and flight crew shall be quarantined for 24 hours at a location decided by the authorities. After 24 hours, a swab sample shall be collected for the test at the designated facility. Anyone with a positive test result shall be retained at the quarantine or other relevant location.

Those with negative test result shall be allowed to leave with strict instructions and guidance for home quarantine.

Data of all the passengers and flight crew with their mobile numbers will be kept for record and further follow up.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Sunday suspended its operations from Karachi, rejecting reports that its pilots from a flight from Britain had contracted the coronavirus.

In a statement, the national carrier clarified its views on quarantining its aviation staff in Karachi. “The PIA is strictly abiding by the instructions issued by the Government of Pakistan,” its spokesperson Abdullah Khan said.

“The instructions include measures related to disinfecting the airplane as well as the crew’s health and safety,” Khan added, noting that the federal government’s instructions were being followed at all airports in the country.

The incident that took place at Karachi airport was “against the instructions issued by the Government of Pakistan on aviation staff”, he said, adding that three hours prior to the plane with no passengers was scheduled to arrive from London, all officials had been informed.

However, the spokesperson stressed that despite instructions, the Sindh health department’s officials insisted on forcefully quarantining the pilots.

PIA Chief Executive Air Marshal Arshad Malik has expressed serious concerns over the actions contrary to the federal government’s instructions, he added.

The PIA’s airplane crew is bringing back Pakistanis who have been stranded abroad, CEO Malik said, according to Khan. “We have ensured all possible safety measures for the aviation staff,” he added.

The spokesperson clarified that the national carrier was constantly in contact with top officials and that reports about its airplane crew contracting coronavirus were misleading.

The crew was in isolation in a PIA hotel and were awaiting test results, the spokesperson added.

However, the airline’s operations from Karachi were to remain suspended until there was a consensus on the government-issued directives, he said.