ISLAMABAD            -            Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf has said the government has granted permission to some airlines to operate commercial flights from Pakistan, especially to countries where PIA does not have access, such as the United States, Australia and Africa.

Speaking at a news conference at the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) here, he urged Pakistanis stranded abroad to register with the embassies in their countries of residence, saying the embassies will prioritise people for their return home. Yusuf while explaining the quarantine policy for Pakistanis returning home from abroad said that their tests are conducted 48 hours after arrival. He said it can take up to one or one-and-a-half days or even 3-4 days until test results come back depending on provincial capacity.

“I understand people are agitated but as you know most new cases are asymptomatic now so you have to cooperate with the government,” he begged. In some cases, he noted, a traveller’s test will come negative, but many other people test positive on their flight; in such a situation, it depends on provincial authorities if they want to keep such persons (who test negative) quarantined for an extra period.

Moeed Yusuf clarified that there is no limit on the number of flights that can operate to take foreign citizens stuck in Pakistan to their home countries. He said the government’s focus for the next week will be to repatriate Pakistani nationals from Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia. “But we will also try bringing citizens back from Sudan and Kenya,” he added.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has soared to 15,289. According to National Command and Operation Center, these include 5,827 cases in Punjab, 5,695 in Sindh, 2,160 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 915 in Balochistan, 330 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 297 in Islamabad Capital Territory and 65 in Azad Kashmir. At least 3,425 patients have so far recovered while the death toll from the virus stands at 335 with eight new deaths during the last twenty four hours, while 404 new cases have been reported.