The federal government is going to review its order that made mandatory for international passengers arriving in Pakistan to provide a copy of test results for COVID-19 at the airport, the aviation minister confirmed to SAMAA Digital.
On March 17, the Civil Aviation Authority issued an order asking the passengers to provide their test results at Pakistani airports. The result must include the name and passport number of the passenger. The decision, the authority had said, will come into effect from March 21.
“The prime minister has convened a meeting of the National Security Committee tomorrow (Friday) and it (the new CAA order) will be on the agenda… it will be discussed and a decision will be taken,” Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told SAMAA Digital.
When asked if the CAA order has been suspended, the minister said: “So far, I can’t comment on it. It will be decided in the meeting tomorrow.”
The virus has killed two people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and infected over 380 people across the country. The provincial and federal health departments have already deputed their teams at the airports to screen the arriving passengers.
The government came under criticism from overseas Pakistanis who say the coronavirus test is expensive in some countries and it should not be a requirement for passengers without symptoms.
Hospitals in some US states are reportedly charging $1300 to $1500 for the COVID-19 test.
“An average Pakistani man working at a superstore or fuel pump earns $600 per week and then there is tax,” Amir Shehzad, a Pakistani working at the New York airport, told SAMAA Digital. “It would be very difficult for a Pakistani national to fulfill the requirement.”
The federal government has already limited international flight operations to airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad only.
A CAA official, requesting anonymity, termed the government’s decision “foolish” but said the passengers will have to give a copy of the instructions because it is mandatory now.
“Many countries have already suspended their international flight operations and hundreds of passengers are stuck at airports,” he said. “The new rules will make their lives more difficult.”