Ghulam Dastgir
Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastgir says that UAE and Pakistan are closely coordinating the special flight operation to repatriate stranded Pakistanis. Image Credit:

Dubai: Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE Ghulam Dastgir has refuted media reports that a high number of passengers repatriated from the UAE to Pakistan had tested COVID-19 positive.

“These reports are exaggerated as very few passengers who flew from UAE to Pakistan on special flights, tested positive for coronavirus,” Dastgir told Gulf News while reacting to reports appearing in a section of the international media about coronavirus cases among people repatriated to Pakistan over the last two weeks.

“Yes, there were some passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 at the quarantine facilities in Pakistan, but the number is not alarming compared to the huge number -- more than 6,000 – of people repatriated from the UAE so far,” he said.

Pakistan has raised concerns with the UAE that workers are returning home from the UAE with high rates of COVID-19, reported Reuters on Wednesday. Pakistani media also reported that more than 100 passengers repatriated from the UAE have tested positive for COVID-19.

Foreign Miniser rejects reports

A UAE Foreign Ministry official said the government “completely rejects this version of events”. “Everyone on UAE repatriation flights has been tested before departure, and those found to be infected were not allowed to travel,” the Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs, Khalid Al-Mazrouei told Reuters.

The Pakistan ambassador noted: “These numbers of infected passengers are not high considering the fact that maximum number of stranded passengers were repatriated from the UAE, compared to any other country in the world.”

Working closely

He added: “Despite all these circumstances, we are working very closely with the UAE government to resolve any issue.”

The ambassador further said that the UAE had already started free testing of Pakistanis in Abu Dhabi. “We have already started registering people who want to go for COVID-19 tests. More than 1,000 people have already registered while hundreds have [already] completed their tests,” he revealed.

He also advised stranded passengers to apply for COVID-19 tests before travelling to Pakistan.

More than 69,000 stranded Pakistanis have registered with the Pakistani diplomatic missions in UAE for repatriation. This included around 63,000 people who had registered with the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai.

The Pakistan government has been running repatriation operations through Pakistan International Airlines and other airlines to bring home Pakistanis stranded in the UAE and other countries.

259 passengers tested COVID-19 positive

Earlier, Moeed Yusuf, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security Division, said that 259 passengers who had come back to Pakistan from around the world over the last two weeks tested positive for coronavirus. He said approximately 15,000-16,000 Pakistanis have been repatriated so far.

Sharp increase in cases

Meanwhile, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report says that Pakistan has been recording 1,000 new coronavirus cases on an average daily. The WHO report, dated May 6, states that the average number of cases reported per day in Pakistan has risen to 1,000 this week, doubling since mid-April. On Wednesday, Pakistan recorded 1,523 new cases across the country, its highest single-day tally till date.

In the meantime, testing has also been increased, especially in the Punjab province. On Wednesday, Pakistan carried out more than 12,000 tests. The report reveals that 84 per cent of the confirmed cases are between the ages of 20 and 64 years, while the highest mortality rate, 74 per cent, is in the age bracket of 50-79 years.