The photo has been used for illustrative purposes only.
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will operate 17 special flights between April 4 and 11 to bring back around 2,000 overseas Pakistanis from different countries.
Both decisions were taken at a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC), which was also attended by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. It was decided that the daily meetings of the NCC would also be attended by the chief secretaries of all provinces through video links.
It was also decided that goods transport movement would be restored to ensure adequate supply of essential food items amid lockdown.
Besides, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the relevant authorities to resume construction activities while keeping a balance between lockdown requirements and economic activities so that people in limited areas could work.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar told reporters that the participants were of the opinion that it was necessary to ensure availability of medicines, edible items, medical services and energy. "People will continue to cooperate with the government as long as they get basic necessities of life.”
He said data showed that some of the measures the government had taken worked. "Our R-naught value, which indicates how many people one contagious person will infect on average, is on the decline. This means that some of the steps we have taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 are working,” he added.
He said it was collectively decided at the NCC meeting to extend restrictions for two more weeks after which the situation would be reviewed, while no province would further intensify the restrictions during this period.
"Considering the problems of overseas Pakistanis it has been decided that the first flight would land at Islamabad International Airport on April 4. All passengers will be sent in quarantine and tested for COVID-19. Those tested negative will be sent home through special arrangement of transport. Moreover, those Pakistanis will have to stay in self-isolation and there will be a track and trace system in place for them. On April 5, the situation will be reviewed and then other flights will be allowed to land in Pakistan,” he said.
In the second phase, Umar said, Jinnah International Airport, Karachi would also be opened for international flights. However, domestic flight operations would remain suspended, he added.
"We have been informed deserving community members through phone to book their tickets for upcoming special flights of PIA and the tickets have been issuing through special counters set up at the Terminal 2, Dubai International Airport,” he said.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said that two special flights, one PK-789 with 264 passengers on board has departed for Toronto from Lahore, while another flight PK-781 carrying 242 passengers has flown from Karachi to Toronto.
Imran has also appealed to the leaders of rich countries, the UN secretary general and heads of financial institutions to give debt relief to developing countries like Pakistan so that they could combat the deadly COVID-19 in a better way.
Expatriates living in the UAE were elated as their family members, colleagues, friends stuck in other countries are now able to return as the UAE has lifted restriction on incoming flights from Monday onwards.
The Committee explained that the new guidelines take into account the exceptional situations of some categories of people including people of determination, children, and those with chronic respiratory conditions.
The UAE will today (Monday) start receiving residents with valid residence visas, who were stranded abroad due to coronavirus pandemic from various countries.