CAA urges govt to take up issue of rapid PCR tests with UAE

Aviation authority says Pakistan does not have resources to conduct rapid PCR tests for Covid-19 at airports
Web Desk – August 06, 2021

KARACHI: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Friday said that health authorities do not have the resources to conduct rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in Pakistan and only rapid antigen testing is being used as a method of testing passengers for Covid-19 at the airports.In a letter written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the authority stated that the rapid PCR test facility cannot be provided to departing passengers for Dubai as it is currently unavailable in Pakistan. It urged the MoFA official to take up the matter with relevant authorities in the UAE on priority basis to reconsider their policy.

On Tuesday, the UAE’s National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) said that it will lift a ban on transit passenger traffic from Pakistan and other countries from August 5.

NCEMA said on Twitter that passengers travelling from countries where flights had been suspended would be able to transit through its airports from Thursday as long as they present negative PCR tests taken 72 hours prior to departure.

Final destination approval would also have to be provided, the authority said, adding that UAE departure airports would arrange separate lounges for transiting passengers.

“This is to bring to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that currently, our relevant Health Authorities do not have the resources to conduct Rapid PCR Tests in Pakistan and only Rapid Antigen Testing is being used as method of testing for arriving passengers at Pakistani Airports,” the CAA said in the letter to MoFA.

“While we may ensure that Dubai terminating passengers from Pakistan hold a valid negative PCR Test Result conducted within the 48 hours prior to commencement of travel to Dubai, we cannot provide Rapid PCR Test facility to departing passengers for Dubai as it is currently unavailable in Pakistan,” it added.

“In-lieu, Dubai terminating passengers from Pakistan may be tested at our Airports using Rapid Antigen Testing conducted within the 06 hours prior to departure of flight for Dubai and any subsequent PCR Testing may be undertaken upon arrival at Dubai.

“Considering the importance of the travel requirement of our esteemed passengers between Pakistan and Dubai, it is submitted that the above-stated matter may be taken up with the relevant UAE Authorities on priority, please and the UAE Authorities may be urged to reconsider their policy on inbound passengers from Pakistan to Dubai,” the letter further stated.

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,” UAE country manager of a private airline Sohail Nazar told Khaleej Times.

“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,” Sohail said.

He said that some laboratories in Pakistan offer the facility, but it is useless because the rapid test is not conducted within the premises of the airport.

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