Pakistan to start week-long repatriation flight programme

Islamabad: Pakistan is set to start a week-long repatriation flight programme from Saturday to bring back its nationals stranded overseas because of disruption of flights and tightening of travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said 17 repatriation flights would be flown between April 4-11, reports Dawn news.

Under the plan approved by the National Coordination Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic, phased repatriation would be carried out under which priority would be given to those held up in transit, followed by those, whose visas were expiring. Pakistanis working or studying overseas would be third on the priority list, Qureshi said.

All returning passengers, he said, would be subject to coronavirus testing at the airports for which the testing and quarantine capacity was being augmented.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said the Pakistan International Airlines had operated special flights to bring back stranded Pakis­tanis from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar and Thailand.

“Plans for repatriation from Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Tashkent, Baku, Baghdad, London and Toronto have been finalised, while plans for repatriation of our nationals from other destinations is also under active consideration. As this is a dynamic and evolving situation, these plans will be reviewed regularly,” Dawn news quoted Farooqui as saying.

Pakistan has so far reported 2,441 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 35 deaths.