UAE travel: Pakistanis remain stranded due to non-availability of rapid antigen test facilities
Airports in Pakistan will now have to arrange test facilities within the premises of the airport.
Even as the UAE has lifted suspensions on return of Pakistan expats, thousands of Pakistanis still remain stranded due to the non-availability of Rapid Antigen Test facilities at the local airports.
“There is no Rapid Antigen Test facility at the Pakistani airports. Therefore, passengers are not able to board the flights. The UAE has emphasised to strictly follow SOPs (standard operating procedures), and bring passengers that meet all the guidelines and conditions,” said Sohail Nazar, UAE country manager at Airblue.
The UAE authorities earlier this week had allowed vaccinated residents, alongside certain other countries, to return from Pakistan from August 5. However, a Rapid Antigen Test facility within the premises of the airport of the departing country is mandatory.
“All the airlines are facing this challenge because none of the airports in Pakistan has this facility. Importantly, the condition is that this Rapid Antigen Test has to be conducted within the premises of the airport and not outside the premises of the airport. This means the rapid test has to be done four hours before departure of the flight,” said the country manager of Airblue, Pakistan’s largest private carrier which operates flights from Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Multan to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Currently, some laboratories in Pakistan are offering this facility, but according to Nazar, it is useless because the rapid test is not conducted within the premises of the airport.
“We had a meeting with the officials here in the UAE and they’re very clear about it. Local authorities need to set up a Rapid Antigen Test facility at Pakistani airports. Hopefully, this issue will be settled in a few days time,” he added.
Malik Tauqeer, a passenger at Lahore International Airport, said passengers on UAE-bound flights are not allowed to board as airports don’t have rapid test facilities.
“Please don’t book your flights and spend money on PCR or any other tests unless it is clear that they have (rapid test) facilities at the airport. People who are standing outside right now have come from distant areas and now they can’t fly to UAE,” said Tauqeer.
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