Hundreds of Pakistani citizens are stuck in the UK amid COVID-19 crisis after the Civil Aviation Authority closed Pakistan’s airspace on March 21. Among those who want to be repatriated in the UK are students, visitors, and the elderly vulnerable people.
The Pakistan High Commission in London has announced 3 special flights from the UK to Pakistan on April 5, 6 and April 7, but many travellers have been unable to book the tickets citing lack of support from the PIA. One traveller complained on the condition of anonymity, “I bought a ticket from PIA scheduled to depart on 24th March. Its not my fault that they closed the airspace. Now they are asking me to buy a new ticket, this is totally unfair! I tried to call to get a seat on the special flight but they are not responding to my call!”
Initially, travellers were told by the High Commission that they would not be able to fly without a Coronavirus negative test but this policy was retracted because there was a lack of testing in the UK. After the announcement of the special flights to Islamabad, travellers were told that they would be tested in Islamabad and be kept in a hotel until results arrive. Afterwords, passengers who test positive for the virus would be taken to a governmental quarantine facility.
Stranded Pakistanis were apprised neither about the details of the hotel nor the quarantine facility. The High Commission could not confirm the details since it did not receive updates from the government of Pakistan.
Samad Rahim, a postgraduate student at the School of African and Oriental Sciences said: “These are very difficult times and Pakistanis stuck in the UK would want nothing more than to be united with their loved ones back home.
While there is an option to be on one of these flights during April, but along with the risk of exposure during travel, and being a carrier who spreads it to family members, there’s obviously more complications with how the passengers will be screened on arrival, and quarantined if necessary.”
“With the situation getting worse in the UK every day, it has become much harder to make a decision on whether to stay put or get back home while you can.”