ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has temporarily suspended issuance of new visit visas for Pakistan and 11 other countries, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Wednesday.

While referring to the suspension of visit visas, FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said: “We have learnt that the UAE has temporarily suspended the issuance of new visit visas until further announcement for 12 countries, including Pakistan. The suspension is not applicable on already issued visas.”

This step could be part of the measures by the UAE authorities to contain a second wave of coronavirus, the FO spokesperson believed. However, he added, the government was seeking official confirmation from the relevant UAE authorities in this regard.

Last month hundreds of Pakis­tani passengers were denied entry into the UAE and repatriated after they were unable to meet the new entry criteria set by the authorities for visit visa holders.

FO says decision not applicable to visas already issued

Dubai authorities in the second week of October had made it mandatory for all the people holding visit visa to have AED2,000 cash, return air ticket and hotel booking to enter the country. For those tourists planning to stay with friends and relatives were required to provide accurate residential address and ‘other relevant’ information about their hosts.

The consulate general of Pakistan in Dubai, according to Khaleej Times, had confirmed on Oct 17 that a total of 678 Pakistani citizens had been denied entry into the UAE for non-compliance with the criteria.

Earlier due to the surge of coronavirus cases in Pakistan in June, the UAE airline, Emirates, had announced temporary suspension of passenger services from Pakistan till July 3. The decision was announced after around 30 Pakistanis who arrived in Hong Kong aboard an Emirates flight tested positive for the virus. However, the airline resumed its flights in July.

But in August Kuwait’s aviation banned commercial flights to 31 countries, including Pakistan, regarded as ‘high risk’ due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of infections has been rising in Pakistan since late last month and authorities have declared that the country might be witnessing a second wave of Covid-19.

More recently, Pakistan has recorded more than 2,000 daily cases of the novel coronavirus and officials have warned that the positivity rate of the disease has increased in major cities.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address on Monday, had appealed to the people to ‘act as a nation’ in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. He also announced new restrictions on public events, including suspension of his party’s rallies. “This is the time to take precautions. If we do, we can slow down the virus. Just like earlier we were saved due to following precautions, that time has come again,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020