When Will The UAE Reopen To Pakistani Passengers?

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Yesterday we reported that the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCCA) would be temporarily suspending flights from Pakistan in light of its worsening COVID-19 situation. The policy went into effect on June 29th, with reports saying that it will remain until a laboratory is set up for COVID-19 tests.

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Pakistan International Airlines serves four cities in the UAE from numerous cities in Pakistan, including Lahore and Karachi. Photo: Getty Images

What triggered the policy?

All sources point to the UAE acting on rising coronavirus cases in Pakistan. However, one particular incident may have been a clear signal to Emirati authorities that Pakistan’s situation was not under control.

According to the New Indian Express, Emirates discovered that 30 Pakistanis who flew on an Emirates flight to Hong Kong on June 22nd had tested positive for COVID-19 (some reports indicate that the number is 26). As a result, the airline had made its own decision to suspend service to Pakistan from June 24th to July 3rd. However, the UAE’s decision supersedes any Emirates Airlines policy.

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It was discovered that between 26 and 30 Pakistani passengers on an Emirates flight were COVID-19 positive after a trip to Hong Kong. Photo: DD via Flickr

What now?

The suspension will remain until Pakistan can establish a process of laboratory testing for COVID-19 for all travelers flying to (or through) the UAE. This is according to a statement made by the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on Sunday:

“This is a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all arrivals as of Monday, June 29, 2020,” – UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority via New Indian Express

Therefore, based on this news, it seems like the onus is entirely on the Pakistani Government to implement a pre-departure system for testing, whether it is for all flights or just for departures to the United Arab Emirates.

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Budget airline Air Arabia also has scheduled services between the UAE and Pakistan. Photo: Air Arabia

Pakistan’s dependence on the UAE

With a great deal of business and trade flowing between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, it would be in Pakistan’s best interest to expedite the process in setting up COVID-19 testing for UAE-departures.

In fact, the Pakistan & Gulf Economist noted that in 2017 and 2018, Pakistani migrant-worker remittances (earnings sent home to families) from the UAE were the 2nd highest, next only to Saudi Arabia. In August 2018 alone, over $440 million was sent back to Pakistan from ex-pat workers in the UAE.

While this number has almost certainly gone down due to the pandemic, it stands to demonstrate the interconnected nature of the two countries. A travel ban would serve to cut off workers needing to re-enter the UAE. If this is indeed the case, then there would be a fair amount of pressure for Pakistan and the Government.

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Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a firm date on when this will happen.

We should also note that Pakistanis in the UAE are still able to fly back to Pakistan as outbound flights remain operational, a top envoy clarified on Monday. The Khaleej Times reports that this has been confirmed by Ghulam Dastgir, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE.

How long do you think this travel ban will last? Have you been affected by this new policy? Let us know in the comments.

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