Govt to suspend all types of domestic flights till April 11


RAWALPINDI: The government has decided to extend the suspension of all types of domestic flights till April 11. The government had suspended the operation of all types of domestic scheduled and non-scheduled chartered and private aircraft passenger flights from March 26 till April 2.

Aviation Division’s spokesman and senior joint secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar said in a press release on Wednesday that the government had extended the suspension of all types of domestic flights from April 2 to April 11. However, he added, the operation of domestic flights from Islamabad International Airport to Gilgit and Skardu airports and vice versa would continue as normal.

He said the only exemption to the above would be diplomatic, special/cargo flights and flights of the national flag carrier to and from Pakistan holding special approval from the competent authority for transporting stranded passengers.

However, passengers onboard any or all inbound flights shall be subjected to thorough checking as per established procedures, including screening, swab testing and isolation/quarantine as per advice of health professionals.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said in a press release that in the first phase, a limited number of passengers would be brought back so that they could be integrated testing according to the capability of National Institute of Health. He said flights to Canada and the United Kingdom would be operated from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Flight operations for Toronto would resume on April 3 and those for the UK on April 4.

Mr Hafeez said the passengers affected by the suspension of flights would be given priority and all flights would land at Islamabad airport only. On arrival, all passengers will be tested/scanned in the lounge. He said that on arrival all travelers would be housed in local hotels in Islamabad for six hours. The passengers cleared during scanning would be sent home, while those affected would be shifted to a quarantine centre.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued Covid-19 guidelines for all cabin crew members to ensure their safety as well as of passengers before flights and layovers. The flight deck itself is seen as a safer place provided appropriate hygienic measures are taken. According to the guidelines, any infections caught in the aircraft will not come via re-circulated air, but due to direct contact, or via droplets, that is if an infected person sneezes or coughs, it is currently believed that the virus can survive on surfaces for up to four days.

The CAA recommended that crew and other personal with any symptoms of flu should not be working. And crew should be planned as teams to prevent spread of virus, while exposure of crew should be minimised with ground personnel. All personnel should follow proper hygiene practices before entering cockpit.

During flight all surfaces should be disinfected with alcohol wipes before starting flight preparations. Crew members have been advised to use hand disinfection gel often and always before eating anything.

The CAA directed the crew members to avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth. If routine use of OXY mask is required (such as for operations above a given flight level), they should use disinfection towel before and after the use of mask. They have been asked not to use public transportation, stay in hotel room to the extent possible, minimise going out into the general population and exercise social distancing.

The crew members have been directed to eat in their room with either room service or delivery service. If dining options are not available in room, they should eat at a restaurant located in the hotel. If such facility is not available at the hotel, they should eat at a restaurant located close to the hotel. The crew members have been advised to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use at least 60pc alcohol-based hand sanitiser often and always after entering the hotel room or before eating.

There is little evidence that wearing a mask is effective in preventing healthy crew members from getting an infection. It is not recommended to fly with a mask.

“In addition, gloves do not prevent you touching your face and the infection can spread in a similar way as if you are not wearing gloves. Need for self-quarantine/isolation after flights is to be decided by the local authority,” the guidelines said.

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