The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned all flights from Pakistan after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. The flight suspension came into effect on Monday after the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said “precautionary measures” were needed to protect the health and safety of passengers.
In a statement, officials quoted by the national WAM news agency said flights would not resume until a COVID-19 testing laboratory was set up. It’s not clear who will pay for to set up the lab or how long passengers will need to take a test before they are allowed to board a flight.
The blanket flight ban comes less than a week after Emirates suddenly suspended services from Pakistan after 55 passengers who had travelled from the country within just a few days of each other tested positive for COVID-19. The test results only came to light because the passengers had travelled onto Hong Kong where mandatory testing is required upon arrival.
The Hong Kong authorities publish detailed information about every positive case and that public data revealed 26 passengers on just one Emirates flight had been infected with the novel Coronavirus. All the passengers had travelled with Emirates from Pakistan before transiting through Dubai International Airport (DXB) and continuing onto Hong Kong.
Emirates said it was “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”.
The statement continued:
“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.”
It’s not clear whether Emirates could have flown other passenger who were infected with the novel Coronavirus to countries which don’t require COVID-19 tests on arrival or don’t publish the data.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.