Special flights arranged to repatriate Pakistanis stranded abroad are exempt from the latest NOTAM
The Government of Pakistan on Sunday announced it was extending until May 15 the existing suspension of international flight operations in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
According to a Notice to Airmen issued by the Civil Aviation Authority, the ban would apply on all international flights inbound to Pakistan. “As per decision taken by the Government of Pakistan, suspension of operation of all international passenger, chartered and private aircraft inbound flights to Pakistan is extended upto Friday, May 15, 2020,” it said.
“The only exception to the above would be the diplomatic, special/cargo flights and flights of national carrier to/from Pakistan holding special approval from the competent authority for transporting stranded passengers,” it continued, adding that anyone allowed on a special flights would be subjected to a thorough screening upon their arrival and a requirement to maintain quarantine for two weeks.
“Passengers onboard any or all inbound flights shall be subjected to thorough checking as per established procedures, including screening, swab testing and isolation/quarantine as per the advice of health professionals,” it added.
The updated NOTAM was issued as Pakistan’s confirmed cases of coronavirus climbed past 12,500 with more than 275 deaths. The government has repeatedly warned that it expects the situation to significantly worsen in the next 2-4 weeks—though this warning sends a mixed message as the government is simultaneously easing movement restrictions to help the economy recover.
According to Pakistan International Airlines, it would operate 103 flights over the next 15 days from various cities of the country to several international destinations to evacuate Pakistanis stranded in foreign nations.
The national carrier is set to complete this “special mission” by May 9 and plans to operate flights to the U.K., the U.A.E., France, Germany, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Malaysia and Norway. The cities of origin in Pakistan would be Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot.
Under this scheme, says the PIA, 20,000 stranded Pakistani citizens would be brought back home.
Meanwhile, a PIA spokesman told daily Dawn that it did not have any policy in place to maintain social distancing on flights flying out of Pakistan. However, passengers are offered the option to sit next to empty seats when they are returning from abroad.
This policy potentially raises the chances for a traveler to contract the virus due to lack of adequate preventative measures.