That 105 Pakistanis flown back to the country on a repatriation flight from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tested positive for the coronavirus shows the lack of a comprehensive global strategy to curtail the spread of the virus. If things carry on like this, neither any state nor a so-called collective response will succeed in bringing down the number of infections anywhere.

Since the government has been running a repatriation operation to bring back its stranded citizens in other countries, the risk of positive cases was always there. However, allowing infected individuals to board increases the risk of infecting other passengers. Countries from where these passengers fly should have tested them before they leave. Those that test positive need to be taken to the nearest isolation centres, instead of allowing of further infections to continue unchecked.

It is understandable that countries all over are naturally up to their elbows in fighting infections within their own citizens, but it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the spread of the disease is stopped completely. Firefighting is not the answer. Simply looking to repatriate foreign citizens in the hopes that they are now someone else’s problem does not counter the root problem in anyway. The 105 travellers who tested positive for the virus do not constitute the first case of this type. Even last week, special flights also brought some 259 COVID-19 cases back home.

The international community, therefore, needs to reach a consensus on standard operating procedures regarding repatriation. This would minimise, if not eliminate, the danger of the spread of the virus among the fellow travellers.

The current standard of exit and entry screening may look reassuring. Still, experience shows it’s exceedingly rare for screeners to detect infected passengers. Testing travellers for the coronavirus and stopping them from travelling if tested positive is the way forward and the reflection of a collective response to the pandemic.