The government made the premature decision to resume international flights in Pakistan, but foreign airlines have been reluctant to operate flights amid the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Many UAE-based airlines including Emirates and Etihad announced to suspend flights after around 26 passengers tested positive for the virus on a flight to Hong Kong while transiting through Dubai. This was followed by South Korea who suspended flights and restricted the entry of Pakistanis in the country.
Qatar Airways, who had earlier announced to resume flights to Pakistan, had now cancelled outbound flights from the country. Many people had pre-booked seats and had planned to reunite with their families but have now suffered a setback.
Faced with a humiliation, the government has now decided to screen even passengers leaving the country for coronavirus symptoms. Those who are suffering from the virus will not be allowed to travel. Many countries were following the system and the virus was detected in several passengers.
SAPM on National Security Mooed Yousaf said that only those passengers should reach the airport that are completely fit while those showing symptoms or having come in contact with a patient should not travel. The problem lies with asymptomatic people as they carry the virus without showing symptoms.
Under such circumstances, the decision of the government to resume flight is rather immature. Many countries have barred all international travellers even with declining number of cases. Even New Zealand, which was briefly declared coronavirus-free, had stopped all flights for an indefinite period.
On the contrary, Pakistan has allowed flights while the numbers of surging and have yet to reach their peak. Every country now has different policies and passengers cannot be expected to know them but rather aviation authorities and airlines have the responsibility to ensure the spread of the virus.
Pakistan is expected to receive around 270 flights just with the coming weeks. This will certainly increase the risk of imported coronavirus system as not passengers can be detected. We need more aggressive testing of passengers so that health facilities are not burdened. Saner minds should have prevailed to defer the decision until the situation normalizes.