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Emirates Airline has announced a new insurance program that will cover medical and quarantine costs for passengers diagnosed with Covid-19 after traveling with them.(Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hisham Qadri)

UAE Bars Flights from Pakistan

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCCA) announced Sunday it will not receive passengers coming from Pakistan until a lab is established to test them for the COVID-19 disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus currently spreading around the world.

The GCAA’s decision applies to transit flights operating from Pakistan, a statement released on state media says. The restriction goes into effect on June 29, one day after the announcement was made.

Passengers from Pakistan, including transfers, will not be allowed to enter UAE airports.

Emirates Airline, a state flag carrier, already suspended flights to Pakistan effective June 24. The carrier made the call after at least 55 people traveling through the UAE to Hong Kong from Pakistan tested positive for the coronavirus within days of each other.

“The health and safety of our crew, customers and communities remains our top priority. Emirates has put in place a comprehensive set of measures at every step of the customer journey on the ground and in the air, to minimise the risk of infection spread,” the carrier said in a statement. “[We are] coordinating closely with the various authorities and will review and implement any required additional measures to satisfy all parties before we resume services from Pakistan.”

Over a million Pakistanis resided in the UAE before the coronavirus pandemic. And despite its own travel suspension, Emirates will continue repatriation and cargo flights between the UAE and Pakistan.

The two countries have been at odds with each other diplomatically over the coronavirus for months. In May, Pakistan said that travelers from the UAE were bringing COVID-19 with them. But officials from the UAE denied those claims, instead saying they had tested the passengers before travel.

The UAE’s suspension comes just days after an initial report on Pakistan International Airlines flight 8303 was released. As the report was presented, Pakistan’s civil aviation authority revealed that as many as 40% of Pakistan’s pilots are unqualified to be flying commercially, many of them cheating on exams to receive their licenses. It is unclear how the international community will respond to this claim, though PIA has fired all the pilots it believes to hold a fraudulent pilot license.

The flight suspension also deals a blow to Emirates Airline, which is attempting to rebuild its network as travel demand slowly begins rebounding. Though it stopped passenger services in March due to the coronavirus, the airline resumed flights to several destinations in May and has even added new destinations since.

The United Arab Emirates has taken strict steps to combat the coronavirus. And when the country expands access to international travelers, which it is expected to do on July 7, there will be a number of strict entry requirements. Passengers will be required to download an app to allow for communication with health officials if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.

They will also be required to fill out a Health Declaration Form, have valid health insurance and conduct a PCR test with a maximum validity four days, or 96 hours, before departure. Passengers will also be subjected to thermal screening to detect fevers, a symptom of the coronavirus.

John McDermott
John McDermott
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