ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf has said the government wants to bring back all the stranded Pakistanis from abroad at the earliest, and in a safe manner.

Addressing a news conference along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health, Dr Zafar Mirza Yusuf said 15,000 stranded Pakistanis have so far been brought back from 38 countries.

He said it has been decided to operate thirty flights in the next ten days and the focus of these flights will be United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as ninety percent of the one hundred thousand stranded Pakistanis are in these countries. He said flights will be operated in other regions as well, including Africa.

 The Special Assistant said the flights are being operated keeping in view our capacity for testing and quarantine. This process will be further accelerated in the days ahead with improvement in testing and quarantine capacity.

He said that while the government is following international procedure of testing everyone returning from abroad, there are some influential people who are trying to escape this system.

“We want all Pakistanis to return as soon as possible but in a safe manner. We cannot have them coming back and infecting their loved ones, which is why we cannot give any exemption from testing to anyone,” Yusuf said and added, “people that return are tested after 48 hours of their arrival, getting the results takes a further day or day and a half, after which it is determined if they should go home and stay in self-isolation or be kept in quarantine.”

Sometimes it happens that one person tests negative while everyone else on the flight around them tests positive. In that case their province decides what to do. “The reason the repatriation process is slow is because we are following the procedure to quarantine these people. Our quarantine facilities can take from 7,500 to 8,000 people at a time.”

Another reason is that a lot of airports and flights are not functioning so we have to take permission for every flight and we can only operate some flights,” he added. Special Assistant to PM on National Health Services, Dr Zafar Mirza speaking on the occasion, once again appealed the people to follow precautionary measures and the SOPs to avoid spreading the virus. He said the testing capacity is being enhanced. So far, one hundred and ninety-four thousand tests have been carried out. Dr Zafar Mirza said coronavirus cases have increased in the country but they are still less than the projections. He said the majority of patients in the last 24 hours were from Sindh. They reported 622 cases yesterday (Friday). The highest number of deaths reported in 24 hours is 32, this was reported yesterday, Mirza said. “Out of 32 deaths, 31 occurred at hospitals and one at home. 14 of these people were on ventilators,” he said.