ISLAMABAD: Pakistan would start a week-long repatriation flight programme from Saturday for bringing back its nationals stranded overseas because of disruption of flights and tightening of travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said 17 repatriation flights would be flown between April 4 -11.
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, Mr 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, meanwhile speaking at the weekly media briefing, said the national flag carrier 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,” she maintained.
The spokesperson said Pakistan’s diplomatic missions overseas had been told to assist the nationals abroad by providing food, medicines, and accommodation and facilitating extension of visas, in case of expiry of short-term visas.
Responding to a query about the return of Chinese workers to Pakistan, who got held up in China during vacations because of coronavirus outbreak there, she said the Chinese government was following a “double-quarantine” policy for the officials of Chinese companies working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan.
“Those officials travelling to Pakistan spend 14 days in quarantine in China before travelling to Pakistan and after reaching Pakistan, they remain in quarantine for 14 more days. Established medical procedures are also followed during the process,” she said. Replying to another question, she said Pakistan government was hopeful that CPEC projects would remain unaffected by the delays caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020